Development of integrated preventative crop protection systems
Pesticides are a significant cost element in many cropping systems. On the demand side, one of the main consumer concerns about intensive conventional crop production is the fear of negative health, biodiversity and environmental impacts of residues from chemo-synthetic pesticides (pesticides is used here as a term describing herbicides, pesticides and fungicides and chemicals used to fumigate soils and glasshouses).
Main targets of “integrated” or “low input” crop production standards are therefore to (a) minimise the use of chemosynthetic pesticides, (b) switch to pesticides with lower toxicity, persistence and greater selectivity and/or (iii) use alternatives to chemosynthetic pesticides (e.g. biological control and plant extract based crop protection treatments) (EC Regulation 2092/91).
Organic farming standards do not permit the use of chemosynthetic pesticides However, a range of alternative crop protection treatments (pyrethrum, rotenone, Bacillus thuringiensis, Copper and Sulphur based fungicides, soil steam disinfections and flame weeding) that are permitted, have raised concerns among consumers, because they were shown to have negative side effects on the environment, or on beneficial, or were linked to potential health risks.
A major reason for consumer and supermarket rejection of foods from organic and “low input” production systems is the presence of visual spoilage and/or poor shelf life caused by disease and pest lesions. Also, weed control is a major cost factor and reason for reductions in crop yield and quality occur in many vegetable and fruit crops.
It is therefore necessary to improve crop protection strategies for organic and “low input” production systems. Wherever possible, this should be based on preventative, agronomic, physical or mechanical crop protection strategies, to (a) avoid consumer concern about potential negative effects on environmental or human health of chemosynthetic and alternative pesticide treatments, (b) increase the sustainability of production systems and (c) minimise cost of crop protection.
We have therefore focused on integrating fertility management practices resulting in improve crop resistance (identified and/or developed under WP2.1, WP3.1, and WP3.3) with variety choice and other alternative strategies for the control of pest, disease and weed (developed either here or other EU or nationally or industry funded projects, see below). Using commercially important arable, vegetable and top fruit model cropping systems we will carry out the following studies (sub-workpackages):
WP3.5.1 Integration of fertility management and cover crop/weed management systems on disease & pest incidence and crop yield & quality in apple production systems.
WP3.5.2 Integration of fertility management and elicitor treatments for the control of downy mildew in lettuce and onion.
WP3.5.3 Integration of fertility management and root stock selection to optimise control of soil-borne and foliar diseases and the nutritional and sensory quality of glasshouse grown tomato crops.
WP3.5.4 Integration of fertility management and variety choice to optimise control of foliar fungal diseases (Septoria spp., powdery mildew rusts and Fusarium spp.) in wheat
Environmental and sustainability audits and cost/benefit analyses on novel strategies selected will be carried out as part of Horizontal activity 1 & 2 based on data from WP3.5.
The emphasis is on fertility management. The scientific team working on WP3.5 is involved extensively in national and other EU projects, which aim at developing alternative treatments or new varieties. The development of alternative treatments and resistant varieties is therefore not a main focus of our work. When new effective alternative crop protection treatments or new varieties become available from these projects they will be evaluated as part of an integrated crop protection strategy under WP 3.5.
The scientific team also proposes to develop collaborations with relevant future EU 6th framework projects under area 5.4.6 to enable appropriate novel weed, pest and disease management and developed to be integrated into trials under WP 3.5 of this IP.
This study will provide important data/deliverables for SPs 5 & 6 (see graphic presentation)