Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

A natural alternative to chemical pesticides

The results of a recent research project will instil confidence in both growers and consumers that safer, healthier food is within our grasp.
A natural alternative to chemical pesticides
For a long time, heavy-duty pesticides were applied to crops to eliminate a range of threats, including insects, weeds, plant pathogens, birds and other mammals. It was later discovered that these chemicals can find their way into our water supply as well as our food chain. Thus, many of these substances have since been banned from use.

With the global population continuing to grow, the agricultural industry needs a viable pest management solution now more than ever. To this end, the 'Enhancement and exploitation of soil biocontrol agents for bio-constraint management in crops' (2E-BCAS IN CROPS) project, which received funding from the EU, investigated the potential of biocontrol agents. These offer a natural rather than artificial solution for pest control.

Efforts have been made in the past to introduce biocontrol agents, but mostly met with limited success. The project team did, however, manage to combat Sclerotinia, a pathogen that destroys lettuce and many other leaf vegetables, by applying two biocontrol agents simultaneously. Progress was also made by combining single agents, such as the fungus Trichoderma, with other types of treatment.

An important part of the research focused on developing the means to track biocontrol agents upon their release into the environment. The data collected during this exercise was analysed to determine what controls must be put in place to limit the impact of biocontrol agents on the environment.

Experience gained during the project can be extended to other crops in the future. A relevant public awareness campaign could also help to increase acceptance of this type of pest control on farms in Europe.

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