The European Green Deal sets out how to make Europe the first climate-neutral 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 over-fertilization 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” said Pedro Juan, Growing For The Future” project leader, Certis Europe.
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 the 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 the sector currently faces.
More stimuli needed for alternative solutions
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) programs 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, etc. In addition, new investment in Biorational and conventional products is needed to allow the development and promotion of new IPM programs for the production of fruits without residues. Biorational products can also be used in crop programs 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 productive system based on knowledge, investment, efficiency, zero residue, cooperation, responsibility and commitment in this new stage that is beginning. The withdrawal of 50% 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, etc.) in order to innovate, develop and remain very competitive.
“Growing For The Future” Certis Europe project
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 programs 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 Certis IPM programs 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, the pest and disease control programs of Certis are called “Growing For The Future protocols by crops”, with the joint use of Biorationals + auxiliary insects and pheromones for sexual confusion or with Attract & Kill systems. They allow to obtain totally residue-free crops – Zero Residue. Certis Europe portfolio of Biorational products is made up of registered products and proven programs, all under the umbrella of the strategic project “Growing For The Future”. Citrus growers can apply these products with 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. Undoubtedly, Certis is the leading company in Spain with Biorational products registered by the Ministry of Agriculture and the leading company with the most advanced sustainability project “Growing For The Future”, but the industry has to work more together and with resilience. This must be the key to the future of Spanish citrus sector.