The demands being placed by policymakers on European farmers and growers with the introduction of the European Green Deal (2019) and its associated strategies are well-known, and the urgent need for action through the use of more sustainable practices to address the challenges posed by climate change and environmental damage is widely accepted.
The “Farm to Fork” strategy presented in 2020 by the European Commission aims to transform agricultural production using sustainable practices such as increasing organic production to 25%, reducing the use of chemical pesticides by 50%, and improving production systems by reductions in fertilizer usage of at least 20% and nutrient losses by 50%.
Dutch cucumber was subject to a comprehensive biorational trial
Certis Belchim has been working for many years on the development and registration of a range of Biorational products, all registered as Plant Protection Products and evaluated at the EU and country levels. These products of natural origin (including fungicides, bactericides, insecticides, acaricides, molluscicides, and nematicides) are effective in controlling pests and diseases, and the portfolio now includes more than 22 well-known registered brands with organic certification, available to farmers for use in organic as well as conventional crops. This enables the company to provide crop protection solutions in line with these aims with products that both growers and consumers can trust and whose use is safe for humans and the environment.
Growing for the future
The project, “Growing For The Future” (G4TF), has been developed over the past five years by Certis Belchim to provide complete crop program solutions to agricultural stakeholders, along with technical support to enable growers to respond to the demand from the food chain and consumers for food safety and sustainability in both conventional and organic products. Initial targets included cucumber, tomato, and peppers, but a much broader range of crops, such as citrus, top fruits, and soft fruits, is now covered, responding not only to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) requirements but also offering full programs to growers of fruits and vegetables with registered biocontrol products from natural sources that are certified for use in organic farming. This means that Certis Belchim can provide not only support and knowledge on IPM but also biocontrol products and programs to support the production of 100% organic fruits and vegetables, as well as 100% residue-free produce using conventional products.
An important development in G4TF has been the establishment of “The Growing Academy,” whose prime objective is to facilitate the transfer of technology and knowledge on the use of Biorationals and many other topics. This has taken the form of training workshops where Certis Belchim staff share their knowledge relating to the applied science for the use of microorganisms with advisors, technicians, and growers involved in crop production, supported by valuable contributions from University and R&D institution experts.
Biorational trials in cucumber
The following trial conducted in Blanca (Murcia, Spain) shows the high level of efficacy of one Biorational strategy for Aphid (Aphis gossypii) control in greenhouse cucumber production.
Neudosan, a fatty-acid-based potassium salt, is a contact product that is effective from the first application. Its fast knock-down effect can be further improved if mixed with Breaker Max (Natural Pyrethrin 4%) or Botanigard 22WP (B. bassiana GHA).
The efficacy of the contact product is very high after the first application (A) and the second application (B), but because it has no residual effect after 14 days, its efficacy diminishes with an increase in pest pressure. Application of a mix with a product such as Botanigard 22WP, which has a more lasting effect, provided the extra efficacy required in the long term.
The results show that this Biorational strategy provides similar efficacy to the use of the conventional chemical standard Mospilan Max (Acetamiprid 20%).
G4TF results in cucumber production
An IPM combination of conventional and Biorational, using conventional plant protection products in early BBCH, followed by a Biorational range of insecticides and fungicides from flowering to harvest, provides a complete pest and disease control strategy. Also, Biorationals are totally compatible with beneficial insects, so they are ideal for IPM strategies looking for synergies.
Such an IPM strategy used in protected cucumber production in Vícar (Almería, Spain) in Autumn 2021 illustrates the success of using Biorational products in a program to control the pests and diseases of this crop.
Delfin/Turex, Neudosan, Majestik, Botanigard/Botanigard 22WP, and Breaker Max were the key bioinsecticides to control Lepidoptera, Aphids, Mites, Thrips, and White fly, respectively. At the same time, Valcure was the main fungicide against soil diseases, with Amylo-X and Armicarb against foliar disease (Botrytis and Powdery mildew). Chemical products such as Mospilan Max (Acetamiprid 20%), Teppeki (Flonicamid), Takumi (Cyflufenamid 10%), and Ranman Top (Cyazomid 16%) were only used in the earliest BBCH growth stages of the crop, from transplant to flowering.
Assessment of the strategy focuses on five Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in order to measure its quality and alignment with the European regulation on sustainability:
Efficacy: the efficacy obtained using the G4TF strategy to control White fly, Aphids, Thrips, Powdery Mildew, and Cucumber Vein Yellowing virus was high and in line with the conventional or standard strategy.
Reduction of the use of chemical products: the G4TF strategy reduces the use of chemically synthesized active ingredients by 77% compared to the standard strategy. From Farm to Fork established a goal of a 50% reduction by 2030, and with this strategy, the goal is already accomplished.
Fruit pesticide residue analysis: the G4TF strategy produces fruits free of any kind of residue. At the same time, the standard program shows residues of three active ingredients on the fruit at harvest, so there is a 100% reduction.
Environmental impact coefficient (EIQ value): the G4TF strategy reduced the EIQ value to 54% versus the conventional strategy. This coefficient measures the impact not only on the environment but also on the worker and consumers. It is a clear indicator of sustainability.
Profitability: at the grower level, it is critical that the protocol provides profitability. In this case, with the IPM G4TF strategy, there is a 3% increase in economic benefit due to a higher yield. This higher yield was not only due to the excellent healthy state of the plant but also to the use of the Certis Belchim range of Biostimulants, based on yeast extract, used during the cycle.
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