Over €1.2 million to grow strawberries with fewer pesticide treatments. This is the aim of the Med-Berry project, one of those presented by Italy and winner of the PRIMA 2018 project calls. Strawberries are very sensitive to changes in humidity and rottenness; as a result, the defence with crop protection products is quite laborious.
Strawberry is a widespread crop throughout the Mediterranean area and is one of the fruits most loved by consumers. In this area, 35 thousand hectares are cultivated, equal to 26% of world production with an industrial reality and a scientific community active and influential on the economy and society of the area.
But strawberries are also affected by fungal rot, which is controlled by the use of crop protection products. As temperatures rise, it is estimated that the management of these diseases will be even more complex: the development of alternative strategies is, therefore, becoming increasingly urgent.
Elena Baraldi, scientific head of the University of Bologna: "The project is coordinated by the Department of Agricultural and Food Science and Technology of the University of Bologna. It has a duration of 36 months from May 1, 2019, with an estimated budget of 1,238,561 euros. Through Med-Berry, we want to find innovative solutions for the prevention and control of strawberry diseases in a sustainable way, both economically and environmentally, reducing the use of pesticides".
There are five countries participating in the project (click here for more details) in total: Italy (three participants), Spain and France (with two participants), Morocco and Turkey (both with one participant).
The Italian participants are: the University of Bologna (Department of Agricultural and Food Science and Technology), scientific director Elena Baraldi; the Polytechnic University of Marche (Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Science), scientific director Bruno Mezzetti; the University of Milan (Department of Political and Environmental Science), scientific director Dario Frisio.
Among the solutions identified, the establishment of resistant varieties through the use of genetic manipulation technologies (breeding) both traditional and innovative. Baraldi: "We aim to develop new RNA-based crop protection products, which, by exploiting very specific molecular mechanisms, have a low environmental impact. It is innovative to use RNA to protect crops. It has recently been regulated in the United States for medical use, while in agriculture it is still necessary to test it. The environmental effects are important because the innovations of Med Berry will allow the use of fewer chemicals for this crop.