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Environmentally friendly biomolecules from agricultural wastes as substitutes of pesticides for plant diseases control (LIFE EVERGREEN)
Start date: Oct 1, 2014, End date: Sep 30, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Plant diseases caused by bacteria and nematodes often result in sudden and devastating financial losses to farmers, and are extremely difficult to control. Similarly, plant-parasitic nematodes are responsible for heavy crop losses (up to 12%) and the diseases they cause are difficult to control. Traditionally, nematode-related diseases have been managed with the utilisation of plant resistance, crop rotation, biological control, and cultural practices. However, farmers have always preferred using pesticides, which can have severe environmental effects. Presently, most nematicides are not included among the labelled agrochemicals for crops under good agricultural practices because they belong to high-risk classes. Moreover, the development of resistance phenomena and the potential for adverse ecological impact from nematicides creates a continuous need for new products and alternative control strategies for these plant parasites. Objectives The main goal of the LIFE EVERGREEN project is to demonstrate the in vitro and in vivo efficacy and reliability of polyphenol-based biomolecules recovered from agricultural non-food biomass and wastes as disease control products against phytopathogenic bacteria and nematodes. The aim is to use these novel compounds to replace current commercial pesticides and the application of copper salts in conventional and organic agriculture. Trials to optimise field treatments will be carried out on several plants and crops having a high commercial value, which will be used as models (e.g. olive, kiwi, potato and tobacco). The main project objectives are to: Use polyphenol-based molecules extracted from agricultural plant biomass and by-products for the control of bacterial and nematode diseases of crops, in order to replace or reduce usage of conventional pesticides in accordance with EU legislation; Optimise specific polyphenolic formulations against several plant pathogenic bacteria and nematodes; and Adopt an eco-friendly, cost-effective and integrated approach for the control of bacterial and nematode diseases of plants, based on the sustainable use of renewable resources such as agricultural plant biomass and waste as a source for new bioactive compounds. Expected results: Long-term reduction of pollution in agricultural soils due to the replacement of conventional pesticides used against plant-pathogenic bacteria and nematodes; Increased effectiveness by 55% of the control of the bacterial and nematode diseases of plants through the wider temporal application of polyphenol-based bioactive molecules, given that plants can be treated during periods when conventional pesticide treatments are not allowed; Reduced costs for disposal of agricultural non-food vegetable biomass and waste by 45%; Reduced energy consumption used for remediation processes of pesticide-contaminated soils by 20%; Improved soil fertility by 70%; and Increased soil microbial diversity by 65%, with positive impact on soil biology and on the transformation and dynamic of nutrients.

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