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Ensuring the quality of innovative crop growth inputs derived from biological raw materials (biological food for plants) - (BFPs)

Final Report Summary - BFPS (Ensuring the quality of innovative crop growth inputs derived from biological raw materials (biological food for plants))

The objective of the BFPS project was to increase the quality, reliability, safety and end user acceptance of environmentally benign crop growth inputs, the so-called biological food for plants (BFPs), for intensive horticulture, thus contributing to the common agricultural reform policy that promotes quality products and sustainable agriculture.

BFPs are derived from biological resources that contain at least one biologically active compound that reinforces crop vigour. They reduce the need to utilise mineral fertilisers and improve crop health, plant disease resistance and soil micro-life, thus decreasing the dependence on chemical crop protection agents. The project aimed to exploit these beneficial properties in order to meet the needs of both consumers and producers.

Firstly, the manufacturing processes of BFPs were evaluated and their components were reviewed to establish possible relationships between processing steps and end-product quality characteristics. These activities could potentially reduce waste loads, increase processing efficiency and result in the production of safer and more homogenous BFP products of controlled consistency.

Secondly, the exact chemical and biological compositions of BFPs, including pathogens and heavy metal content, were analysed, along with their effect on plant growth, plant health and soil micro-life. Surprisingly, the BFPs with the lowest nutrient content showed consistently the best results with respect to crop production. Biostimulating properties were also evident in most cases. Only a few products negatively affected the multiplication of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which could be interpreted as a warning for the need to focus more on possible side effects of such products.

In addition, an attempt to control BFP quality using innovative tissue cultivation techniques was undertaken. In the same context, the quality of vegetables and fruits produced with and without the application of BFPs was investigated. Possible pathogen loads and chemical contaminants were measured, as well as positive quality indicators such as storability, vitamin content and firmness. The beneficial properties of natural products on plant growth was verified at both greenhouse and field scales. On the other hand, no negative effects were observed.

Overall, the project results indicated that 'soft' green products could contribute to significantly higher crop production, thus forming a viable and more sustainable alternative to chemical fertilisers and crop protecting agents. Proposals for follow-up projects were conceptualised, in order to provide additional information and increase understanding of BFP functions. Nevertheless, it was highlighted that the implementation of BFPs in agricultural processes required, apart from additional research initiatives, the revision of regulatory limitations, so as to render possible the large-scale exploitation of the innovations.