Instituto Pedro Nunes' Laboratory for Phytopathology (FITOLAB), in Coimbra, is, since June of 2022, the only national plant health laboratory with tests accredited by IPAC (Portuguese Accreditation Institute), complying with the European Union's Regulation.
Acting in the detection and research of pests and plant diseases - areas for which is recognized as "Official Laboratory" by the DGAV (Directorate-General for Food and Veterinary), FITOLAB is commited to the detection of the the phytopathogenic bacterium Xylella fastidiosa.
According to DGAV dispatches (N.º 48/G/2022 and N.º 12/G/2022), the demarcated zone for Xylella fastidiosa includes six Oporto counties. It was detected more recently in the parish of Luz de Tavira and Santo Estevão, in Tavira couty, having established the demarcated zone in question on 08/06/2021.
Joana Costa, IPN's FITOLAB Director, says the bacteria is "responsible for an enormous varitety of deseases with great economic and ecological impact in the agroenvironment" and a “biotic agent with more than 500 species of host plants”. The various already identified focuses of disease make this bacteria the harmful organism with more relevancy and impact both nationally and in the European phytosanitary context. It is responsible for losses of millions of euros in the agrifood economy. The rapid detection of this bacteria will enable the adoption of erradication and intensive prospection measures in the covered areas, helping to control the spread of this harmful organism.
The University of Coimbra researcher also calls attention to the difficulty of predicting the real impact of the bacteria and its subspecies on our territory in the face of an enormous range of hosts described between cultivated and wild plants (this currently includes 58 species, some of which described for the first time, infected in Portugal). A lof of these hosts can also function as a reservoir without the bacteria causing disease.
The european legislation requires compliance with diverse procedures evaluated in audits, and so FITOLAB initiated its accreditation process for the testing of this organism's detection. It is a very demanding procedure with a high financial investment, as well as an allocation of highly specialized Human Resources, that will consolidate internationally the Portuguese competence in this area of activity.
The implementation of all procedures associated with the compliance with the 17025:2018 reference in the various tests carried out by FITOLAB within the scope of its recognition as "Official Laboratory" by the DGAV will reinforce the competence of the laboratory.