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Last update: May 2021

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Projet ANR PPR - BEYOND

Our vision

Surveying the indicators of disease risk is a key activity in the prevention of diseases of humans, animals and plants. Today, for plant diseases, a wide array of probes and direct observations are used to detect pathogens and disease symptoms in cropped fields, in nearby suspected reservoirs and during commercial movement of plant materials. The results of detection are used to stop or limit disease proliferation. Timely and highly sensitive detection of pathogens and disease fosters early intervention and can lead to reductions in use of synthetic chemical pesticides.

Although current surveillance strategies can contribute to reducing input of synthetic chemical pesticides into the environment, the opportunities they create to protect their crops are, nevertheless, limited or extreme: once a pathogen is detected in or near a crop, effective control measures are based mostly on disinfection (biocides) or eradication (culling).

The goal of BEYOND is to conceive surveillance strategies that widen the window of opportunity in which to implement a variety of prophylaxis. We will develop indicators of disease risk – beyond direct observation of pathogens and disease symptoms – based on a wide range of environmental variables that are predictive of disease risk. This will be achieved by conceiving and evaluating the epidemiological predictive models of phenomena from time and space scales that are distant to the epidemics themselves. Data will include remote sensing data, information from text mining of scientific, technical and professional documents about epidemics, data from sensor networks of various abiotic variables, regional land use and landscape data, interconnectedness of regions by wind, water and transportation, historical meteorological trends and future predictions, etc.

The new indicators and the enlarged window of opportunity for prophylaxis will allow for better implementation of well-known control methods - such as biological control – and for innovations in prophylaxis. For example, some indicators will warn about the arrival routes of pathogens via wind and water or about the type of land use history that could be predisposing for certain diseases. In addition to fostering improvement in traditional surveillance, such indicators would allow for pre-emptive surveillance. They could also contribute to modifications the spatial organization of cropped regions to disconnect natural dissemination routes. (See the Indicators & Prophylaxis page for more details.)

The BEYOND project recognizes that the transition to new ways to conduct epidemiological surveillance and to implement prophylaxis will require that we help farmers and other stakeholders understand the opportunities and that solutions are co-constructed. The project will work to help stakeholders understand the options for decisions involving increasingly complex parameters and scales of space and time that extend beyond the farm and beyond a single season. Together we will explore new types of reasoning for decision-making in cases where there are multiple pathogens simultaneously and where methods of prophylaxis can be evaluated by cost-benefit metrics rather than cost-effectiveness. The project will also create training materials and courses for field technicians and university students concerning the complex vision of epidemics that will be developed in BEYOND.