Pesticides are a crucial input in agriculture used to combat plant pests and diseases and secure quality and yield in plant production. At the same time, concerns are mounting over the effects of plant protection products on the environment, non-target organisms and human health. Consumers and the food chain alike are increasingly demanding food products that are residue-low or residue-free and produced in more sustainable ways. This applies particularly to fruit and vegetables, which are often consumed fresh without prior processing.
Member States and EU policies seek to reduce reliance on pesticides for crop protection through the design and implementation of more integrated approaches and restrictions on the use of several active substances currently used in pesticides. The escalation of evolved resistance is putting further strains on the availability and use of plant protection products. Significant effort is required to develop alternatives to current disease and pest control products. Similarly, a better understand of genetic, evolutionary and agronomic drivers of the evolution of pesticide resistance is required to develop more durable and environmentally sustainable plant protection strategies.Scope:
Activities will foster the development and testing of new products, tools and strategies for integrated pest and disease management to reduce the use of pesticides in the fruit and vegetable sectors (including herbs and medical plants). Work will improve current cultural practices so as to increase the resilience of fruit and vegetable crops against biotic stresses. It will tackle the development and testing of novel, more sustainable products and tools for their application, taking due account of the potential of nature-based compounds. Activities will enhance knowledge of the mechanisms whereby plants develop resistance and help understand how evolution and spread of resistance lead to control failures across farming systems. Projects should fall under the concept of the ‘multi-actor approach’[[See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this Work Programme part.]] bringing together contributions from a wide range of stakeholders including research, farming, advisory services, industry as well as consumers and civil society. They should also seek contributions from social and economic sciences to cover the broader economic, social, behavioural and environmental issues associated with the adoption of novel pest management strategies. Gender issues will be addressed as appropriate[[See definition of the 'gender dimension of research' in the introduction of this Work Programme part.]]
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of around EUR 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.Expected Impact:
Proposed activities will broaden the armoury of tools available for integrated pest management in the fruit and vegetable sectors. They will help to:
In the longer-term results will contribute to reducing pesticide residues in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, drinking water and the food chain. They will also strengthen the European fruit and vegetable sectors by supporting productivity and product quality. This is expected to increase consumer trust and fruit and vegetable consumption. Results will support product innovation and the competitiveness of European industries including SMEs.