Nieuws - 22 februari 2012

'We need more biological control agents'

The negative impact of crop protection substances on the environment has fallen by 85 percent in the past decade. So says the report 'Evaluation of sustainable crop protection' from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. The aim was in fact a 95-percent reduction. To achieve this environmental goal, more biological disease and pest control agents are needed, says Piet Boonekamp of Plant Research International.

The most environmental gains have already been achieved in the first five years with the ban on harmful pest control substances and regulations to reduce pollution in ditches.  Many detrimental substances have since been replaced by more environmentally friendly alternatives. After these five years, there has been no further reduction in open cultivation. Harmful substances are still being used when there are no alternatives available, or when biological alternatives still contain specific chemical components because these are more efficient.'
'The 85 percent reduction has resulted in much less residues of crop protection substances on vegetables - this aim has indeed been reached. The quality of surface water has also improved considerably. However, several bottlenecks still remain, so there is still work to be done. Vegetable growers need to use more biological control agents. They know the underlying principles and have introduced ichneumon wasps and bugs against pests to a large extent. However, hardly any biological control agents are being used against fungi and bacteria. More research is needed, providing a chance for Wageningen UR to rise to the challenge.
'To comply with the new EU crop protection regulation, three issues need to be tackled now. Firstly, new biological control agents have to be developed as alternatives to chemical substances. Chemical companies see the point in this too. Secondly, we need to give crops more resistance against diseases and pests. Thirdly, there must be better monitoring of diseases and pests so that horticulturists only spray to combat a specific emergent disease or pest. Plant health is an important theme in the agro-food and horticulture top sectors. Therefore, there is much for Wageningen UR to do.'