CORDIS - EU research results



Executive Summary:
Agriculture is crucial for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceutical production. Due to pressure coming from consumers and legislation, European farmers will also have to become more eco-efficient, reduce the negative impact on the environment and deliver healthier agricultural produce. Then, there is a strong need for new, environmentally friendly and efficient products and systems that may play a leading role in the current environmental, economic and societal context.

The general aim of this project was to replace conventional plant protection products by green alternatives. Such green products would deliver a wide range of beneficial effects in terms of water efficiency, control of pests and diseases, reduction in pesticide use, increase of crop yield and tolerance to abiotic stress that will decouple major environmental pressures from agricultural yield, thus contributing to make European agriculture more resource efficient, more cost effective and of higher quality, therefore, more reliable and competitive.

The novel ECO-ZEO formulations was made of Zeolite 4A, active ingredients and additives for enhance efficacy and physico-chemical performance. Since it was not feasible to test the efficacy these new formulations on all the crops, priority was given to crops with higher expected impacts in terms of a mix of scientific, environmental, socioeconomic and business potential interests. So, the proposers of ECO-ZEO selected apple, tomato, table grape and orange. Within these crops, the most important pests (P) and diseases (D) that affect these crops were selected:
- apple: Cydia pomonella (P) and Venturia inaequalis (D)
- tomato: Tuta absoluta (P) and Lobesia botrana (D)
- table grape: Lobesia botrana (P) and Plasmopara viticola (D)
- orange: Ceratitis capitata (P)

During the first year of the project important research activities related to the formulation and testing of new ECO-ZEO formulations were carried out. At the end of these studies, a selection of the best performing target-specific formulations (in the limited scope of the laboratory assays) for each specific crop was done. Then, at least two consecutive rounds of field trials were performed for each crop, where the target-specific formulations were compared against a standard plant protection product and a control treatment. At the end of the trials and its evaluation, a selection of the most promising formulations was displayed. Subsequent studies would then prepare the ground for the full understanding and exploitation of such formulations: deployment with end users, analysis of the economic and environmental sustainability by means of the known as eco-efficiency indicators, with particular emphasis in the impacts on agro-biodiversity, resource-energy balance and benchmarking regarding other conventional plant protection products. A pool of scientific and technological knowledge for future research and development was assembled, and that would keep track of best practices and lessons learned so as to make the process as reproducible as possible in future research settings. This pool would in turn feed the process towards future exploitation and dissemination of the results.

Even though it was not proved that the formulations containing Zeolite 4A could reduce water consumption, increase crop yield and prevent damages by pests, the general aim of this project was reached since we developed two formulations that were able to the control two diseases (V. inaequalis and P. viticola), respectively. In addition, we demonstrated that these new formulations were environmentally safe and could be an alternative to the chemical fungicides used to control these diseases.

Project Context and Objectives:

Agriculture is crucial for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceutical production. Half of the EU's land area is devoted to farming activities. Over the past five decades, the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) — having currently a share of 41% in total EU budget — has encouraged the sector to become more intensive. As a result, the agricultural sector is responsible for a large share of pollution and natural resource depletion. Further, the role of agricultural production entails major environmental concerns, as evidenced by the CAP’s Health Check or the EC’s public consultation on the role of agriculture and forestry in achieving the EU's Climate Change.

Recent regulations at European level stress the need to improve the efficiency in water consumption, reduce the threat of pests/diseases and fertiliser leachates, prevent the increase in soil salinity and support agrobiodiversity. A bundle of policies, regulations and initiatives are being promoted in order to upgrade the sustainability and safety standards.

The EU2020 Flagship “Resource efficient Europe” foresees a scenario by which the entrance of new agricultural technologies to developing countries, together with the expected increase in world population and the planned reduction in CAP subsidies, will force European agriculture to become more competitive, in terms of costs, crop yields and crop quality. Due to pressure coming from consumers and legislation, European farmers will also have to become more eco-efficient, reduce the negative impact on the environment and deliver healthier agricultural produce.

Considering all the above, there is a strong need for new, environmentally friendly and efficient products and systems that may play a leading role in the current environmental, economic and societal context.


The general aim of this project was to develop a pool of new, efficient, environmentally friendly and sustainable products for agricultural crops that would bring a range of beneficial effects regarding water efficiency, control of pests and diseases, reduction in pesticide use, increase of crop yield and tolerance to abiotic stress, in particular to water and heat stress.

The specific objectives were as follows:

- Establish a set of innovative, sustainable strategies based on the combination of Zeolite 4A, additional active ingredients and additives/adjuvants, for optimal physical-chemical performance and crop protection.
- Characterise the physical-chemical interactions between Zeolite 4A and the chemical compounds proposed as active ingredients and coadjuvants, according to the different strategies. Characterise the capacity of the zeolite as a carrier of the proposed active ingredients.
- Assess the performance and safety of the ECO-ZEO compositions as regards the storage, handling and application operations by the end-user. Test stability of zeolite-based suspensions of up to 20-30% concentration.
- Develop new prototype Zeolite 4A formulations to be applied on plant’s surface with beneficial effects for water efficiency, increase of crop yield, tolerance to abiotic stress and crop protection in the target crops (apple, tomato, table grape and orange).
- Assess the activity of the coating as regards pre-concentration and fixation of CO2 (photosynthetic efficiency).
- Assess the efficacy as regards the control of pests and diseases. Ensure persistent crop protection effects: 20% more persistence as compared to chemical standards and complementary active ingredients used on their own, i.e. in compositions without zeolite.
- Ensure that the functional attributes of the ECO-ZEO formulations fit in the standard practices and will not entail any effect which could risk the acceptance by the farmers as well as by the other units in the value chain of crop production
- Demonstrate and accurately assess the environmental and economic sustainability performance of the novel ECO-ZEO formulations. Reach conclusions at farm level, but also at a wider territorial and sectorial level.
- Convey the benefits of the pool of ECO-ZEO formulations to end users through its demonstration in a non-experimental environment and the development of relevant training and guidance material.
- Raise the awareness of the European community to the progress and benefits of ECO-ZEO, with a focus on the scientific community, the industry and ECO-ZEO’s end-users by means of an effective Dissemination Plan.
- Lay the infrastructure for the continuity of research, development and exploitation of ECO-ZEO based applications, including best practices, an established methodology, an agenda for future research and industrial planning

Since it was not feasible to test the efficacy of Zeolite 4A formulations on all the crops, priority was given to crops with higher expected impacts in terms of a mix of scientific, environmental, socioeconomic and business potential interests. Bearing in mind these criteria, as well as the size and scope of the project, the proposers of ECO-ZEO selected apple, tomato, table grape and orange. Then, the most important pests (P) and diseases (D) that affect these crops were selected:

- apple: Cydia pomonella (P) and Venturia inaequalis (D)
- tomato: Tuta absoluta (P) and Lobesia botrana (D)
- table grape: Lobesia botrana (P) and Plasmopara viticola (D)
-orange: Ceratitis capitata (P)

Project Results:

2.1 Study and analysis of Zeolite 4A basic properties for surface crop protection
In order to understand how crops are protected against pests and diseases, the most important features of pesticide application were studied. This study focused on the following properties of the zeolite on crop protection:
- Basic properties of Zeolite 4A: specific surface and porosity
- Granulometry: definition of an optimal size for Zeolite 4A particles
- Aggregation and dispersion characteristics
- Adsorption-desorption and catalytic properties
- Carrier effect for semiochemicals/plant extract, pesticide and microorganisms
- Hygroscopic effect, with a special attention to water activity and moisture sorption isotherms
- Risk of toxicity for the plant due to the coating

A literature review was carried out to describe most of these properties; nevertheless, when the information was not available, some lab tests were performed. This is the case of hygroscopic properties.

According to the literature, zeolites are crystalline, micro porous, hydrated aluminosilicates. The size of its particles could lead to disrupting the insect‘s behavior or a repellent effect on insects due to an unpleasant adherence of the particles to the insect cuticle. The hatch rate of eggs covered with the particle film may decrease, larval development may be interrupted and mortality may be higher for leaves on which the insects are exposed to the particle film. Moreover, according to the literature the layer of particle film covering the leaves and fruit could prevent insects from recognizing and finding plant parts on which to lay eggs. Zeolite 4A is also known to have a very high affinity for water. The tests that were performed to assess the hygroscopy indicated that Zeolite 4A could gain or lose small amounts of moisture very rapidly, giving large changes of water activity across the whole range.

Finally, environmental risk desk assessments performed on Zeolite AA together with the knowledge that zeolites degrade into natural products over time, indicated that the use of zeolites did not pose a risk to the environment.

2.2 Desk study on sustainable strategies, active ingredients and additives

A full literature search was undertaken for over 80 active ingredients (pigments, semio -chemicals, plant extracts, and biological agents) and additives/adjuvants to research their reported activities and characteristics. The information gathered was collated, reported to the partners in the project and then used to determine which materials could have the potential, either as single components or in combination with Zeolite 4A, to meet the characteristics and qualities of novel Zeolite 4A formulations described in the project’s objectives.

A further desk top study of this list of proposed active ingredients was undertaken, the materials and agents from each group were carefully evaluated looking at the most relevant and important selection criteria. These included their physical and chemical properties as well as their indicated efficacy in the control of selected pests and diseases of the target crops identified in the project. The toxicological properties in terms of human health, environmental risk and toxicity to animals were investigated using best available resource and a financial analysis was then completed.

A short list of 10 suitable active ingredients, with a supporting list of additives and adjuvants that could produce effective and marketable combinations with Zeolite 4A, was identified and agreed. These selected candidate ingredients were then put forward to take part in a full laboratory evaluation of their efficacy as control agents (task 2.3).

2.3 Initial lab screenings and selection of sustainable strategies and active ingredients
Zeolite 4A and the selected active ingredients (task 2.2) were tested in vitro against the target pests (C. pomonella, T. absoluta, L. botrana, C. capitata) and diseases (V. inaequalis, B. cinerea, P. viticola) of the ECO-ZEO project. Different tests were performed according to the characteristics of the selected pests and diseases.
At the end of lab tests, it was concluded that almost all the active ingredients selected showed medium or high efficacy against at least, one the target pests and diseases.

Finally, a proposal of the active ingredients to be formulated with zeolite was done taking into account the lab test results, the limitations of the lab test to let active ingredients express they efficacy and the biological characteristics of every insect and pathogen.


3.1 Formulation and lab trials for basic physical-chemical performance
According to the needs of the ECO-ZEO project and the characteristics of the Zeolite 4A, three types of formulations were developed: suspension concentrate (SC), oil dispersion (OD) and wettable powder (WP). At the end of this process, FITO was produced 16 new formulations which seven met the initial requirements of the project and were sent to UGENT, FERRER, CEMAS, IRTA and BATEM in order these partners could carry out their respectively tests: assessment of contact, analysis of the surface tension reducing capacity, hygroscopicity assessments, phytotoxicity, and efficacy crop protection tests.

Regarding phytotoxicity tests, a small degree phytotoxicity was observed in all the SC formulations on tomatoes, and to a lesser extent on apples and grapes. The citrus tree was the least sensitive of the target crops and did not show any symptoms of crop injury under the test conditions. The main effect on the tomato was to produce leaf puckering and curling along the leaf margins with early onset of senescence in the sprayed older leaves. In the apple the leaves rolled slightly and there was a significant loss of moisture in the leaf tissue in all the SC treatments. However, the general vigour of the plants remained unaffected with new growth showing no systemic transfer to the growing tips of the formulated product into the plant tissue.

The OD formulated product showed extensive leaf tissue damage (white/brown necrotic lesions), leaf death, with chlorosis in the growing tips of tomatoes on tomato, apple and grape. Once again the citrus (orange) appeared not to be affected.

3.2 Formulation and lab trials for improvement of storage and handling operations
Laboratory scale assessments of key parameters were done according CIPAC standards; in case of no methodology was available for a key parameter, internal procedures were used. So for the best final compositions, the following parameters were assessed:
- Appearance
- pH (1%)
- Density
- Suspensibility
- Wet sieve test
- Persistent foam
- Particle size distribution
- Low temperature stability
- Accelerated Storage Procedure

According to the results of tests of physico-chemical properties, phytotoxicity and efficacy, the final choice of products was made.

All the tasks developed on WP 3 generated the needed information to make a full description of new formulations and also their Material Safety Data Sheet that guarantee the safety of the products under the perspective of human health.


4.1 4.2 and 4.3 Formulation: Chromatic masking, Behaviour interference and Microorganisms, respectively
The active ingredients that show a medium or high efficacy on the lab screening (WP 2) were formulated with Zeolite 4A pH=8, except Trichoderma harzianum that was formulated with a natural zeolite.

Nevertheless, there were two active ingredients (garlic and mint extract) that could not be formulated because they were effective at high concentrations and the plant extracts that are available in the market have low content on the active compounds. So, the formulation of these plant extracts was not progressed due to economic and technical limitations.

4.4 and 4.5 Lab tests in apple, tomato, grape and citrus
Once the formulations were produced, laboratory tests and/or semi-field trials were carried out in order to check their efficacy on the targeted pests and diseases. As it was expected, the tested formulations showed different degrees of efficacy due to differences in susceptibility of the insects and fungus. The most promising results obtained in laboratory conditions were the follow:
- Zeolite 4A formulated with azadirachtin: C.pomonella T. absoluta, L. botrana
- Zeolite 4A formulated with B. thuringiensis: L. botrana

All the formulations that showed promising results in laboratory were tested in semi-field (outdoor conditions but controlled infestation). In semi-field conditions, the best results were obtained by:
- Powder formulation of Zeolite 4A: L. botrana, P. viticola
- Zeolite 4A formulated with azadirachtin: L. botrana, T. absoluta
- Liquid formulation of Zeolite 4A: sunburn in apple

Regarding the other pests and diseases (C. capitata and B. cinerea), no conclusive results were obtained.

4.6 Desk study, initial lab screenings and selection of other Zeolites
This task included both a theoretical and experimental selection of zeolites. The theoretical selection was based on the properties of zeolites. Based on this selection, six natural zeolite types were considered for further testing, i.e. the zeolites coded as BEA, CHA, FAU, HEU, MFI and MOR. As primary experimental selection criterion, the capability of zeolites to adsorb different plant protection products (PPPs) and water was considered. Only two types of zeolites, i.e. BEA and FAU, showed good adsorption results. Next, these two types of zeolites were further evaluated with respect to their phytotoxicity.

The effects of these zeolites on the plant diseases V. inaequalis (apple) and B. cinerea (tomato) were assessed on agar plates as well as on the plants themselves. A higher growth inhibition was noticed for the test on agar plates compared to the test on the plants. Also, it could be deduced that the fungal growth on the agar plates was mainly inhibited by the formulated zeolites. This effect however was not observed in the test carried out on the plants. Considering the obtained results, one could question whether the effect was caused by the zeolites themselves, or by the adjuvants present in the formulation. In order to verify this, the effect of these adjuvants on the growth inhibition was examined on agar plates, from which it became clear that some of them showed an effect. Subsequently, a bacterial gene profiling assay was performed using 14 transgenic E. coli strains. The results of this test illustrated clearly that each formulation contained one or more adjuvants influencing the activity of the zeolite. In a typical formulation of a PPP, this effect of adjuvants is not noticeable. The high application dose of the zeolites in this study, i.e. up to 20000 mg.l-1 enhanced this effect and explains this observation.

The effect of zeolites on insect pest T. absoluta was also assessed. Toxicity tests were performed on the eggs as well as choice tests. The results showed little or no effect of the zeolites.

Subsequently, tests were performed to investigate potential beneficial effects of zeolites on the treated plant itself, i.e. the possible effect of zeolites on plant growth, dry weight, water uptake and photosynthesis. Despite the fact that little or no effects were observed for plant growth, water uptake and dry weight, some effects were noticed for the photosynthesis. A clear trend could mainly be observed for the treated apple trees, i.e. an increase of photosynthesis was observed after treating the apple trees with the zeolites, followed by a decrease after two weeks.


5.1 Application strategies
The application strategies were defined according to the results of WP 4 and the objective of the trial: abiotic or biotic stressors. So dose, timing and number of applications were defined and were different in function of the type of trial.

5.2 Field trials on efficacy and eco-efficiency
At least two rounds of field trials on the efficacy of Zeolite 4A formulations on pests&disease management as well as on yield, water use efficiency, photosynthesis and sunburn were performed from 2013 to 2015. Field trials were carried out in Spain (apple and tomato) and in Turkey (table grape and orange).

The general conclusions of the field trials carried out were as follows:

1. Formulations of Zeolite 4A could become a new fungicide since they reduced damage caused by V. inaequalis (apple) and P. viticola (table grape) in field conditions.
2. Formulations of Zeolite 4A could not control any of the pests assessed (C. pomonella, T. absoluta, L. botrana and C. capitata) in field conditions.
3. It was not proved that formulations of Zeolite 4A could improve yield, water use efficiency and photosynthesis, and prevent sunburn.

The Zeolite 4A formulations that showed efficacy in the control of pests, diseases or reducing abiotic stress were tested to assess their the eventual effect on a) the mortality of natural enemies and pollinators, b) the soil microorganism, and c) secondary fertilizers. The results of the eco-efficiency trials are described in the task 7.2 Study of the impacts on agro-biodiversity.


6.1 Open call and selection of growers
An open call for the apple and grape demo trial was published in a local newspaper in Spain and Turkey, respectively. This open call was also announced in the ECO-ZEO website and in the AREFHL website. In addition, the Catalan association of fruit cooperatives and private companies related to fruit production distributed the call to its members. This open call included the administrative requirements and also a technical protocol.

After the analysis of the candidates, two farmers organization were selected: one in Spain to carry out the demo trials in apple and one in Turkey to perform the demo trials in grapes.

6.2 Training and support
The workshop of apple scab demo trial was held in Spain in the facilities of the farmer association “Fruits SEGRIÀ – URGELL” on 24 March 2015. The workshop attendees were the manager of the association, the farmer, the technician, and the researcher of IRTA in charge of apple scab trials.

The workshop of grape downy mildew was held in Turkey in the facilities of the farmer association “New Developments in Viticulture” on 17 April 2015. The workshop attendees were the manager of the association, the farmers, the technician, and the researcher team of BATEM.

6.3 Field validation
The formulations needed for the demonstration trials and the User’s Handbook were distributed to the farmers. According the specifications defined in the User’s Handbook, farmers sprayed the formulated product by means of an airblast sprayer.

6.4 Monitoring, data collection and evaluation
In order to demonstrate the efficacy of Zeolite 4A formulations on the control of apple scab and downy mildew, three treatments were evaluated: Zeolite 4A formulation, standard and control.

The technicians collected the data according to the training received in the workshops. At the end of the demo trials, the technicians sent the data to IRTA and BATEM for the validation and analysis.

The efficacy of the formulation of Zeolite 4A to control apple scab was not demonstrated because in 2015 no symptoms of the disease were observed neither on leaves nor on fruits. The application of this formulation did not affect the population of phytoseiids (a natural enemy) and the yield. No phytotoxicity was observed.

In contrast, the formulation of Zeolite 4A reduced damage by downy mildew in grape. However, there were residues of Zeolite 4A on the grapes that decrease the value of the product. There were not observed phytotoxicity symptoms and negative impact on natural enemies after the sprayings.


7.1 Analysis of the eco-efficiency and sustainability indicators
We analysed the of eco-efficiency on horticultural farms, vineyards, specialist fruit farms and citrus fruit farms in selected EU member states in 2012. We based this analysis on an economic-ecological approach by measuring eco-efficiency as the ratio of crop protection costs per ha and the total output per ha. By doing so, we adopted earlier work from the European Environmental Agency that uses the ratio of total pesticide use and gross value added as an indicator for eco-efficiency. We grouped the farms in three groups according to their crop protection costs per ha. On the whole, the eco-efficiency was highest on farms in the group with low crop protection costs and lowest in the group of high costs.

7.2 Study of the impacts on agro-biodiversity
One of the general objectives of the project was to ensure that the ECO-ZEO products do not entail any significant risk for human health or harm to the agro-ecosystem. For this reason, three eco-efficiency indicators have been assessed: (1) the effect of the application of the ECO-ZEO prototype products on soil microorganisms, (2) the secondary fertilizing effects on the soil, and (3) the effect of this prototype products on natural enemies and pollinators.

The tests to assess eco-efficiency indicators (1) and (2) were conducted in laboratory conditions. At the end of the trials, it was concluded that any of the tested formulations containing Zeolite 4A entailed negative side effects on soil microorganism, natural enemies and pollinators.

It was not possible to perform tests to assess the fertilizing effects on the soil because there are no analytical methods available that could differentiate the elements of Zeolite 4A from the elements naturally occurring in the soil. For this reason, after an extensive search in open literature and other sources it was concluded that there was no specific evidence of any beneficial effect of this form of Zeolite 4A per se.

7.3 Benchmarking with chemical standards
The results of the research activities suggested that Zeolite 4A could become a new fungicide since it reduced damages by V. inaequalis and P. viticola. In addition, although field results were no conclusive, lab and semi-field tests results suggested that Zeolite 4A had potential to reduce damage by C. pomonella and by sunburn.

This tasks aimed at generating a benchmarking matrix by comparing three Zeolite 4A formulations with a selection of the most relevant standard plant protection products used to control V. inaequalis, P. viticola, C. pomonella and sunburn. This comparison took into account the effectiveness against the mentioned biotic and abiotic factors, the application method, the cost per ha, and also toxicological and ecotoxicological issues.

This study concluded that those formulations of Zeolite 4A are very safe and green. Thus, Zeolite 4A formulations may substitute several plant protection products in the integrated control of apple pests and diseases, simplifying farming of this crop and being a useful tool in grape crops protection instead of cheaper but more hazardous chemicals currently used.

7.4 Life Cycle Assessment at the industry and farm level
The literature review was carried out to select the most relevant water use indicators, as well as the most important methodological choices, such as for which parts of the supply chain primary data should be collected. Water use assessments for irrigation and for the fungicide applications in apple and grape were conducted, starting with exchange with the project partners on methods and data collection. Based on the field trials, for both crops, the same irrigation conditions were evaluated for conventional pest control and zeolite-based pest control. Furthermore, the other three contributions to the water use were quantified: water use during fungicide production, during fungicide application and during washing after harvest. The aggregation of these four contributions provide the main task result: the water use for producing apples and grapes under conventional pest control and zeolite-based pest control. These results were put in perspective of the theory, and energy demands of the apple and grape production were also drafted. These findings have all been discussed, conclusions have been drawn and recommendations for further research and for improved farm management were done.

7.5 Up-scaling of the sustainability analysis
Task 7.5 was a summary with a scientific basis of all previous tasks in Work Package 7 of ECO-ZEO and included additional experiences from the project. The work started by defining a general conceptual framework based on practical Multi Criteria Assessment and Pesticide Risk Assessment approaches. This framework was discussed with all project partners, and data and experiences, both quantitative and qualitative, were collected from the relevant project partners. All data and experiences were summarized and analysed in correspondence with this framework. After a discussion of the used methods and data, general conclusions on the sustainability effects of using Zeolite 4A formulations in fungicide applications, for apples and grapes, were formulated.


8.1 Desk study for industrial up-scaling and production design
Three formulations were selected to perform the up-scaling according to the field results and a detailed analysis of the operational units was done. In addition, other issues have been analysed like the safety and environmental conditions, the seasonality, the estimated consumption (in the area) and the caducity of each product were considered as key for sizing the facility and programming its campaigns. These information was used to design a production plant that was able to manufacture all the formulations, both liquids and solids in a real, clean, safe and environmentally friendly process.

8.2 Methodology for the replication of ECO-ZEO for new crops, threats, production systems and scenarios
The ground scientific methodology for development of further applications of Zeolite 4A were compiled after the lessons learned throughout the project. After an analysis of the strong and weak points we concluded that: 1) there are opportunities for upscaling towards other production systems and climate zones, 2) Zeolite 4A formulations can protect the crops effectively and with economically acceptable tools, 3) ECO-ZEO products respond to consumer demand for healthy and environmentally-friendly products, 4) a new method for removing Zeolite 4A residues from the fruits must be developed, and 5) the lack of a patent makes the commercialization of any plant protection product containing Zeolite 4A unattractive.

8.3 Agenda for future research: improvements and new applications
During the project several trials have been carried out to assess the efficacy of Zeolite 4A formulations on the control of some key pests and diseases and the reduction of abiotic stress of the main crops in Europe. After laboratory, semi-field and field trials it was concluded that formulated products containing Zeolite 4A can control two diseases: V. inaequalis and P. viticola.

Although these results fulfilled the aims of the project they also generated a set of new questions that were the pillars of the agenda for future research. The new topics of research were as follows: 1) the mode of action of Zeolite 4A, 2) the possibility that Zeolite 4A could control other fungal diseases, 3) how removing Zeolite 4A residues from the surface of the fruits, 4) analysis of the potential of other zeolites as a plant protection product, 5) development of new formulations of Zeolite 4A and other zeolites, and 6) assessment of several spray techniques to be used with the new formulations.

After the analysis of the new research activities, a new consortium was proposed to carry out this new research, and funding opportunities were identified.

8.4 Scientific coordination
The scientific coordinator of the project supervised and coordinated the work done in by the partners, chaired and organized the meetings of the Scientific Committee, reviewed the deliverables and tracked partners’ compliance with work plant, milestones and deliverables.


9.1 Plan for registration
ECO-ZEO novel prototype products containing Zeolite 4A as an active ingredient have been shown to control the fungal diseases, V. inaequalis in apples and P. viticola in grape vines.

If Zeolite 4A and formulated products containing this material are to be approved for use in Europe, each product must be approved at national level and the active ingredient for use as a fungicide must be approved at EU level under the Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009. A natural form of sodium aluminium silicate has been listed in Annex I as an existing pesticide, for a number of years, under the previous legislation 91/414/EEC and under the current regulations as part of a fourth stage review. However, it is registered as a game repellent and therefore an Annex II dossier (as would a new active ingredient for approval) for the active ingredient and an Annex III dossier for each product containing the active ingredient is required for use as a fungicide.

Zeolite 4A is likely to be considered a low risk active ingredient and as such is covered under Articles 22 and 49 of the Regulation (EC) 1107/2009. This will serve to reduce the cost of registration and certification as many costly studies regarding human and animal health (toxicology) and environmental fate and metabolism will not be required given suitable justification for a data waiver. The status of a low risk active ingredient will also shorten the somewhat complex and lengthy registration process.

Before embarking on the process, it is important to be aware that the estimated time frame to complete the studies that will be required to complete the dossiers (mainly field studies to GEP) and to take the active ingredient and products through registration is estimated to be between 5 and 8 years. The cost will be directly proportional to the number and type of studies required for Annex II and Annex III dossiers, this is why a good relationship with the chosen Regulator and pre-registration meetings are advised. However, the costs can still be large and an estimate of up to €5-10M for Annex II and between €0.5 M €1.0M for Annex III for each product could be expected.

9.2 Exploitation Plan
A preliminary exploitation plan and heads of exploitation agreement was written and it took into consideration the role and interests of each partner for products and applications, in solving potential disputes and in reaching the necessary consensus that will lead to the signature of an Exploitation Agreement. Moreover, a study of all components necessary to produce a viable exploitation plan was performed including the business model, pricing and marketing strategies. This includes a detailed study of the value-generating units across the market value chain relevant to the ECO-ZEO knowledge pool, complemented by a corresponding cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Here, we benchmarked with conventional plant protection products (using the outcomes of D7.2). The analysis referred to different possible products and product positioning, based on the following main variables: sub-product formulation, target crop, and application method. The Value chain, CBA and industrial up-scaling served as the building blocks for the ECO-ZEO business model which took on a flexible approach, easily adaptable to different products and applications emerging from the knowledge pool.

9.3 IPR management
The exploitation agreement included the sections as follows: 1) identification of the project results, 2) definition of the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the Ecozeo products, 3) potential ECO-ZEO products for testing in other crops and different climate, 4) potential Ecozeo products for testing in other crops and different climate zone, and 5) patentability results of the project

It is concluded that no valuable intellectual property rights on the results may be obtained and therefore any of the consortium partners would not file a patent application covering any knowledge generated within the project. The results of the project would be disseminated via scientific publications as the knowledge resulting from ECO-ZEO is useful in the development of new crop protection products.

9.4 Dissemination
WP9 aims to reach the stakeholders of the ECO-ZEO project to provide them updated information about its progress and highlighting the advantages of the zeolite crop protection products developed. In order to ensure the dissemination of the project, a Dissemination Plan was elaborated as a guidance to communicate ECO-ZEO advances, and achievements (considered public information by the Consortium) oriented to the established target groups (scientific community, industry, potential end users and general public). As consequence the following tools and actions were performed: a project logo, a project presentation, a press release, a website ( a roll-up, four informational factsheets, a wide audience video, an extended version video, a partner’s introduction videos, eight presentations in symposiums and conferences, five presentations in trade fairs, two internal presentations, five presentations in workshops, one scientific paper, a white paper, and a policy brief.

Potential Impact:

Impacts on environment
It is expected that the ECO-ZEO formulations will not be toxic for natural enemies or pollinators, so that will contribute to improve the sustainability of the orchards.

Impacts on human health
Pesticides are recognized as a health risk to employees in the agriculture and food production sectors, as well as final consumers. The full-scale exploitation of ECO-ZEO will imply the gradual exclusion of a number of harmful agrochemicals from use and their substitution by an innocuous substance. ECO-ZEO can therefore have a positive impact on the health of consumers as well as employees in the food production and agriculture sectors, which will in turn translate into savings on health expenses and loss of productivity.

Impacts on socio-economics
ECO-ZEO has been designed in a way that maximizes its potential impact; this can be seen, for example, in the selection of target crops. Crops were selected based on their socio-economic as well as environmental relevance. The established economic sustainability objective, aiming to increase farm income to farmers, would significantly improve the quality of life in rural areas, independent of subsidies and aids. This increased income would contribute to the competitiveness of the European agriculture sector.

Impacts on agrochemical industry
ECO-ZEO aims to mark the starting point for a shift in the agrochemical industry, from traditional/harmful chemicals to green pesticides. A significant rise in the demand and market share of green pesticides would encourage large generic manufacturers to abandon the use of pesticides and seek for new green and sustainable alternatives.

Impacts on European SMEs
Whereas SMEs might lack the capacity to bring products from development to the market, the business scenario of an alliance between SMEs, Academia and Industry is a probable one where the SME brings to the table an innovative technology and R&D capacity, the Academia provides access to latest scientific advancements and an industrial enterprise completes the partnership by offering production capacity and market presence.

Impacts on European policies
ECO-ZEO has identified gaps in legislation and has worked to promote the official acceptance and preference of a new class of pesticides which prove to be highly efficient and harmless to the environment.

Specifically, in the frame of the frame of the Project, it has been developed a policy brief in order to introduce the difficulties of the registration process of the phytosanitary products to the EC policy Makers.

In particular, the policy brief describes how the large amount of time and financial resources required for the registration of a phytosanitary product, according to the current regulations, represents an insurmountable barrier to the most of the European SMEs, which currently represents almost 99% of the European business community.

At this juncture, the policy brief proposes to the EU policy makers 3 key actions to facilitate the registration process for the phytosanitary products and, by extension, the commercialization process of such products to the European SMEs:

1) Fast Track for Registration,
2) EU loan to obtain Registration and
3) EU ‘Patent’ Protection.


Task 9.4 of the ECOZEO project – project dissemination- aims to reach the stakeholders of the ECO-ZEO project (scientific community, agricultural producers, industry, civil society and policy makers) to provide them updated information about its progress.

Accordingly, during the ECOZEO project, several dissemination activities has been carried out (as explained at first second and third interim reports of the project as well as in section 4.2 of the final interim report) among which we should highlight:

- The logo and the corporative image of the project for presentations (PPT...etc.)
- Four Informational factsheets
- An ECOZEO Press Release.
- A project´s website
- An ECOZEO project presentation
- Two videos: a wide audience video and an extended version video
- An ECOZEO roll up
- A White paper
- A policy brief
- Several presentations of the project in workshops, conferences, seminars and events where the ECOZEO project partners took part.


In order to guarantee the potential exploitation of the project results, several measures have been carried out within the frame of the ECOZEO project:

1) Identification of the project results and the technology Readiness Levels of such results

Three different zeolite formulations developed in the frame of the ECOZEO project have proven to be effective against two fruit diseases and agains the sunburn damage:
- Zeolite 800 M SC for Sunburn protection
- Zeolite 800 M SC against Venturia inaequalis
- Zeolite 850 WP against Plasmopara viticola

Furthermore, the TRL of Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of both products have been identified:
- Zeolite 800 M SC – TRL5
- Zeolite 800 M SC – TRL 6
- Zeolite 850 WP – TRL 7

2) Analysis on patentability results of the project

Patent claims covering any composition/formulation comprising zeolite 4A, its use to combat fungal infections or its use as sunburn protectants were considered not patentable in view of the prior art.

Patent claims covering the specific formulations 800 MSC and 850 WP were considered patentable but the scope of of such claims could be easily circumvented by any competing third party.

Accordingly, the consortium agreed to handle the latter specific formulations as trade secrets.

3) Development of an exploitation agreement between the consortium partners

An exploitation agreement has been developed and signed by all the consortium partners, according to the working plan of the project (D.9.9). Within the frame of this agreement all partners in the consortium settle:

a) the ECOZEO project generated useful information to society,
b) further research and development is still needed before efficient marketing of the products can be undertaken,
c) no patent protection is envisioned but that the specific formulations 800 MSC and 850 WP will be handled as trade secrets,
d) project results will be disseminated via scientific publications, and
e) each partner can develop an exploitation activity plan and can commercialize the latter specific formulations after consultation with the other partners.

List of Websites:
project website:

All information related to the project is included within the project website such as the project logo, the promoting work of the project, the contact details on the main responsible persons for the project, and other details relatied to the project.