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The RISE Foundation Project: “The Future of crop protection in Europe”

The RISE Foundation Project: “The Future of crop protection in Europe”

                                                                                                                                                                                           Press release

RISE is an independent public utility foundation. Their mission is to envisage and promote a more sustainable agricultural system in Europe; one that engages fully with the circular economy, provides safe and healthy food whilst developing our natural capital. It creates jobs and encourages investment in rural areas, and conserves our traditions and cultural heritage.

RISE works as a think tank, bringing together experts to address key environmental/ agricultural challenges in Europe and develops high quality accessible research reports with clear recommendations for policymakers.

As an independent non-profit organization, RISE holds a rare position in that it can provide policymakers with entirely impartial and accessible evidence-based opinions and recommendations on key policy developments and agricultural challenges of the day.

 Crop protection

The way crop protection is conducted today is considered unsustainable by many stakeholders. ‘Change must come,’ says RISE’s Chairman Janez Potocnik, the former EU Commissioner for Science and Research and for the Environment.  A system change is required that would restore natural protection and resilience. A study was set up on how to make such a transition work and to provide policy recommendations for it.

This study is supported by a number of organizations of which Koppert is the only one with a focus on biocontrol and bioprotectant technologies.

The outcome of this science-based study is reflected in a report that will be presented on April 20 to policymakers. It will also be circulated to more than 10,000 stakeholders in the agriculture and environment sphere, and in the media. It will also be presented to key politicians in the EU before the launch. This report will be an important one, amongst many others, to discuss that a change is needed in agriculture and crop protection. Not just in agriculture, but also in areas that have a strong influence on land use, the crops grown and their purposes, and human food habits. Changes are also occurring in these fields and need to happen in order to have a healthy human population and keep the planet in balance. The extensive report addresses the following issues in five chapters:

  • The concerns around crop protection
  • An examination on how the legislation functions
  • Why change is unavoidable
  • A description of ways to go through a transitional development path
  • Policy recommendations

The key question that is addressed is whether we can continue with the crop protection system that we have today, or whether there is a need to change the current production system? The answer is evident that the current system is not sustainable and that a new food production system has to be developed. The report concludes that a new goal for crop protection should follow: to re-establish ecosystem functions on agricultural land to provide nature-based solutions for pest, disease and weed threats, and to utilise all means to enable a substantial fall in the harm caused to health and environment by the use of PPPs. 

This requires a transition strategy that needs to be based on five elements:

  • Encourage the adoption of sustainable farming principles and practices, and restore ecosystem functions.
  • Drive Integrated Pest Management as the coordinating framework.
  • Encourage biocontrol where possible.
  • Deploy precision agriculture, robotics, artificial intelligence and big data where appropriate.
  • Internalise pest and disease resistance through breeding.

Koppert Biological Systems in particular underlines the development of appropriate IPM programmes for each cropping system, even for each farmer, where knowledge and measures emphasize the prevention of pest and diseases, using biocontrol tools to intervene when necessary. These bioprotectants safeguard the ecosystem services in the crops, soil and surroundings and maintain the balance and resilience as much as possible. New technologies can assist this system and optimize timing of actions.

‘A new paradigm needs to come into place where IPM (integrated pest management), INM (integrated Nutrient management), and ITM (integrated technology management) will lead us to ICM (integrated crop management).  Biological solutions will be the driving force for sustainable and healthy food production systems. The European regulatory framework needs to be adapted to this new area. As Koppert we aim to contribute to the health of the people and the planet, to make agriculture healthier, safer and more productive,’ states Peter Maes, Corporate Marketing Director at Koppert.

Many policy measures are needed for such a transition to be adopted and be successful over time. Engagement of the many stakeholders needs to be achieved and new policies adjusted to reach this transition. Regulatory innovations will be required as well as research into new methods and tools. A list of policy recommendations which should be implemented in the EU New Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy to create this new agricultural system for the next decades has been proposed.

Dr Willem Ravensberg, Koppert’s Corporate Sr Governmental and Regulatory Affairs Manager and former President of the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association (IBMA)

‘While current crop protection methods are recognized as not sustainable, IPM and biocontrol can offer the natural solutions for a new sustainable crop protection system that respects human safety, the environment and biodiversity whilst helping to safeguard our people and the planet.’

The full report will be available on May 19th with the title: Crop Protection & the EU Food System: where are they going? The launch event will take place through an online webinar, accessible by invitation only. If you are interested in attending, do not hesitate to contact Rise Foundation After the launch event, the report and the recording of the webinar will be made available online.

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Koppert registers new biofungicide

Koppert registers new biofungicide

Botrytis bunch/fruit rot/grey mold and Monilia brown rot – fungal diseases which annually cost fruit growers and wine producers millions of euros in production losses worldwide, can now be controlled in an effective and sustainable way with a non-synthetic fungicide that has been developed and registered by leading biocontrol innovator, Koppert Biological Systems.

Registered in France, other European countries and the USA are expected to follow.

Noli is a water dispersible granule preparation based on the naturally occurring Metschnikowia fructicola yeast, which prevents decay in fruit. The product is intended for preventive treatment before disease symptoms appear, but can also be used in the finishing stages approaching the harvest for protection when most synthetic fungicides are not available. Noli is a spray suspension that is applied directly to leaves, blossom and fruits of the plant. It effectively controls Botrytis in grapes and soft fruits such as strawberries and blueberries, Monilia brown rot in stone fruit, such as cherries and plums, without leaving a trace of residue.

Antagonistic yeast

Koppert’s Product Manager, Pieter Oosters, explains that Noli is an antagonistic yeast that works by competing for space and nutrients with harmful fungi. Besides that, it produces antifungal metabolites and attacks the plant’s pathogens through mycoparasitism.

‘Noli integrated in a chemical program, has a comparable efficacy to a full chemical programme. As a standalone product it can often compete with a chemical program. It is therefore both suitable for IPM as organic farming. One of the advantages it has over chemical products, is that it can be applied till the day before harvest. ’, says Oosters.

Successful trials

More than 100 field trials have been conducted using Noli against Botrytis spp. in a variety of fruits in several countries in Europe and in the United States. The trials have been carried out using different chemical agents in combination with Noli to compare the effectiveness of applying synthetic fungicides versus natural fungicides at different periods of cultivation.

‘The trials have shown that using Noli during the finishing stages approaching the harvest is equally effective as using synthetic fungicides,’ Oosters explains.

PPP registration

The new fungicide, Noli, was successfully registered in France this month. France was the rapporteur member state for the registration process where the product dossier was evaluated on behalf of other member EU states. The registration of new PPPs (Plant Protection Products) is a rigorous process and can take years to complete. For this reason, the number of PPP registered products on the market is still relatively limited.

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Key role for microbial products

Industry leader Koppert explain how microorganisms are a solution in soft fruit production.

Worldwide production of products such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and other berries is on the rise. Growers who are expanding and want to boost production and eliminate cultivation risks often turn to natural solutions with key industry suppliers such as Koppert Biological Systems. The firm has now added microbial products to its range of products and they are looking very promising. According to the company, they are essential if a robust cultivation system is desired. Koppert confirms that bumblebees and beneficial insects are in great demand in soft fruit production worldwide to improve crop sustainability.

Bees, beneficial insects, and microbiology at Koppert

The major investments and increasing capital intensity mean that growers want to avoid risks as far as possible. At the same time, they are coming under pressure as the range of chemical products available shrinks and these products are becoming less effective. In addition, buyers want products that are residue-free. More and more growers are therefore looking for solutions in integrated or even fully biological cultivation methods. Koppert Biological Systems provides these solutions. The market leader in improving crop sustainability has a full range of products available, offering bumblebees for pollination, natural enemies to combat pests, and biostimulants (microbial products and natural substances) that support and strengthen the plant. Koppert’s bumblebees (products such as Natupol, Tripol, and Natupol Booster) have been best-sellers in the fruit cultivation sector for years. This also applies to beneficial insects such as Swirski-Mite, Macro-Mite, Spical, and Limonica. These are natural enemies that tackle pests such as thrips, spider mite, and whitefly effectively in soft fruit crops. In the range of microbial products (produced from beneficial fungi and bacteria), Trianum and Linafer-P head the list. ProParva and Fortafol are biostimulants made from natural substances. These products have a beneficial and useful function for the plant, both above and below the soil surface. They strengthen the root system and plant and promote the absorption of nutrients, plant growth and resistance to disease or pests, as well as other stress factors such as drought.

Sales & Marketing Director Peter Maes argues that microbial products offer great promise for the future. He points out that these products have already achieved an important market position in many crops. ‘Because they strengthen crops so effectively, they are very useful – even essential – in countries and regions where cultivation conditions are less than optimum. Thanks to these products, the crops grow stronger and more resilient towards soil diseases, leaf and fruit diseases, and also against pests. Microbials play a key role in soft fruit production.’

Large investments

Maes emphasises that it is not just the high quality of Koppert products that makes the difference. ‘The focus is on natural, often living products. Growers need to learn how to work with these. That’s why we also advise growers and offer them intensive guidance. This helps create a robust, integrated system, and the success of the crop becomes significantly more certain. This is exactly what our customers want.’ To maintain expertise at the highest level, Koppert regularly consults with large international producers and trading companies. As Maes explains, ‘This way, we keep abreast of cultivation issues and developments, and the current wishes of the retail sector and the consumer. This is all valuable input for our researchers, product developers and consultants. 

Koppert at Fruit Logistica 2016, Berlin: Hall 1.2 – stand D-08

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Koppert Spain building new R&D centre in Almería

Research into microorganisms that are beneficial to agriculture will be one of the key activities to be developed at Koppert's new R&D centre.

Koppert Biological Systems, recently laid the foundation stone for a sustainable building in the Spanish town of Vícar and hopes to bring microbiological solutions closer to growers around the world.

In a press release, the company’s local sales director Valter Ceppi said the building is much more than an economic investment. “It represents Koppert’s commitment to agriculture and reflects our interest in working side by side with farmers to improve the competitiveness and commercial value of their crops.”

The Mayor of Vícar in the province of Almería, Antonio Bonilla, and Councillor María Fernández, were present at the stone laying ceremony for the new 300 m2 R&D centre which Koppert Spain is building on this site.

Commitment to natural solutions

Research into microorganisms that are beneficial to agriculture will be one of the key activities to be developed at the new R&D centre. This will strengthen Koppert’s commitment to microbiology, a field of research in which the company has already achieved major successes.

The identification of fungi and bacteria which naturally increase the growth and productivity of plants, while strengthening the natural resilience of crops against diseases that are mainly transmitted through the root, form the basis for a range of Koppert’s seed, soil and plant enhancement products.

There will be a second laboratory for entomological research (insects) and an area devoted to quality control for all the biological products which Koppert sells in Spain. The new facilities, which will open in about six months, will also have offices for researchers, a meeting and training room, a kitchen, and communal areas.

The new R&D centre will have sufficient space to accommodate both permanent staff and visitors.

The new building will be self-sufficient in terms of energy, relying on solar and wind power, and will be constructed with materials that take maximum advantage of the light and Mediterranean climate to minimise its environmental impact.