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Growers must reduce dependence on chemical pesticides

Growing For The Future project leader, Pedro Juan says new investment in biorational products is needed

Pedro Juan says new investment in biorational products is needed
Half of existing phytosanitary products are expected to be withdrawn
Spain is Europe's largest citrus producer
Mite damage is a challenge for growers

FRESH PRODUCE JOURNAL: SPAIN SPECIAL

The European Green Deal sets out how to make Europe the first climateneutral continent by 2050. The strategy ‘From Farm To Fork’ is an essential element of this European Green Deal, bringing a new approach to the way Europeans value the sustainability of the food we produce and eat.

According to the criteria and objectives of the new European Green Deal, there is an urgent need to reduce dependence on chemical pesticides; reduce overfertilisation of crops; increase organic farming; and increase the use of products for the control of pests and diseases that do not leave residues in fruits and vegetables (biorational products).

This means that producers and research and development companies of new ‘biorational’ products for the control of pests and diseases will have to invest in accordance with the future European requirements set out in this new document of political objectives called the European Green Deal.

We face a major challenge in the next 10 years where Spain, a world leader in fresh exports, must continue to be at the forefront with production systems for crops such as citrus. The sector is under strong pressure from the continuing loss of active ingredients and the entry of citrus from other countries outside the European Union where it is produced at lower cost and with chemicals already banned in Europe.

This leads occasionally to the arrival of shipments of citrus from South Africa, Morocco, Egypt etc with residue problems, while Spain supplies citrus fruit that is fully adapted to the requirements of supermarkets and the European authorities.

Over this period the value chain and consumers will demand more fresh, high-quality food, 365 days a year, and at an affordable price. They will influence the policies of the supermarkets, which will continue to maintain power in negotiating with our producers, in packaging, transport, labour, origin, etc. Their demands on reducing or eliminating phytosanitary residues in citrus, traceability, residues and environmental impact, as well as zero residues, are already among the demands and challenges we currently face.

Stimuli for the changes and rapid adaptation that must be made should include sustainability plans for citrus grower associations and citrus growers throughout Spain. Greater emphasis must be placed on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes for growers in conventional agriculture. Alternatives that combine the use of conventional and biorational products must be considered in response to the appearance of new pests such as Delottococcus aberiae, and Pulvinaria polygonata, but also a large variety of mites in citrus.

In addition, new investment in biorational and conventional products is needed to allow the development and promotion of new IPM programmes for the production of fruits without residues. Biorational products can also be used in crop programmes for organic farming (with new biorational products registered in various crops), compatible with beneficial insects, mating disruption pheromones and in line with cultural practices.

It is vital to have certifications that guarantee a prooductive system based on knowledge, investment, efficiency, zero residue, cooperation, responsibility and commitment in this new stage that is beginning.

The withdrawal of 50 per cent of phytosanitary products, that is expected over the next 10 years, will almost certainly lead to fewer options for pest and disease control and the entry of new pests and diseases is also possible. Spanish citrus growers may see reductions in yields, while imports from third countries with access to phytosanitary products that are no longer registered in Europe could increase.

An investment plan is to be included in the European Green Deal, providing sources of funding towards a fair transition to which our associations of producers and citrus growers should have access (Fair Transition Fund, Horizon Europe, Next Generation Plan) in order to innovate, develop and remain highly competitive.

Meanwhile, Certis Europe continues to support these developments with its own projects, such as Growing For The Future. The project is an advanced sustainability project, based on pest and disease control programmes in both conventional and organic agriculture.

Of course, there are possible future complications in citrus, such as the Asian citrus psyllid, no bigger than the head of a pin, which spreads the HLB or greening in citrus (also known as Yellow Dragon Disease). The infected insects (vectors) spread the disease by feeding on the leaves and stems of citrus trees. Once the Asian citrus psyllid acquires the disease, it carries it for the rest of its life. Citrus greening then spreads through the movement of infected plants and plant materials, such as buds and even leaves.

In conventional agriculture our IPM programmes are based on a very small percentage of conventional products and a high percentage of biorational products (registered or in the process of registration in citrus).

In organic farming, our pest and disease control programmes called ‘Growing For The Future protocols by crops’ with the joint use of biorationals plus auxiliary insects and pheromones for sexual confusion or with Attract and Kill systems allow us to obtain totally residue-free crops.

Our portfolio of biorational products is made up of registered products and proven programmes, all under the umbrella of our strategic project, Growing For The Future. Citrus growers can apply these products with the confidence that they are in line with sustainability, food safety, consumer trust and already well in advance of new European directives such as the Farm To Fork strategy. The industry must work together and with resilience.