The 9th International Symposium on soil and substrate disinfestation was held in Crete, Greece, in September 2018. Scientific experts of the International Society of Horticultural Science (ISHS), discussed the important challenges faced by European growers due to the lack of plant protection solutions for an effective control of several soil pests, most of all nematodes, and some critical weeds.
The round table discussion focused on very important issues concerning the following:
• The needs for various tools for soil disinfestation (SD) in the light of the limited arsenal of SD tools and especially after the methyl bromide phase out, were thoroughly discussed.
• The lengthy European registration process of new plant protection products and the cautious approach of EU regulation, as well as restrictions imposed, has led to a reduction of active ingredients available in the past 10 years.
• Following the implementation of Regulation EC 1107/2009, the only tool available to fill the gaps in local production systems, is Art. 53 of the above-mentioned Regulation, which provides “derogations” for exceptional authorizations of plant protection products. Such authorizations increased exponentially in past years.
• The above-mentioned EU Regulation has a high socio-economic impact on various production systems in Europe and the Spanish case shows clearly the importance of maintaining a sustainable agricultural activity in local communities that, in the case of protected crops area, includes 13% of the active population employed in agriculture.
• Several European agricultural sectors are affected as the EU authority is allowing increased importation from extra- EU countries, considered unfair competition due to the more flexible registration system for plant protection products than that of the EU.
• To compensate for this disruption, more effective and faster evaluation systems are needed, especially for naturally occurring and low risk products (biological, plant extracts, etc.). That is, all products which are essential for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs.
• There is also a miscommunication on plant protection products. Indeed, consumers, in most cases, are not aware that producing without chemistry would lead to substantially reduced productivity and would increase end produce price, as demonstrated by several studies.
• The various approaches for coping with regulations and for providing a much needed additional SD tools, were addressed. These include, among others, combining methods of control and improved SD application. The need for intensive and thorough research on SD tools was emphasized.
• The scientific community is making very important progress in balancing the use of chemistry with different techniques, as well as in understanding all those factors influencing the efficacy of such techniques themselves. Knowledge transfer from research and dialogue with the political and regulatory communities is still a key area for improvement, particularly in Europe. The clear messages from scientific experts meeting at the Symposium is that these issues must be correctly addressed to all levels of stakeholders, in a way that all available tools, including sustainable use of soil disinfestation, may be used in a combined IPM system to allow sustainable production.
Nicola De Tommaso (Portfolio Lead)
Arben Myrta (Portfolio Development Manager)