Sustainable agriculture through novel pesticides using an integrated approach

SAGROPIA is dedicated to transforming plant protection in European agriculture through the introduction of thirteen biological and low-risk pesticides, which shall replace some “candidates for substitution” (CfS) and active substances that are currently in use.

Specifically targeting potato and sugar-beet crops, the project aims to seamlessly integrate new and sustainable solutions to plant protection into comprehensive integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.

The overall objective is to achieve a significant reduction in the reliance on chemical pesticides. This underscores the project’s strong commitment to mitigating adverse effects in crop production on natural resources, people, and the environment.

From Kitchen Staple to Global Crisis: Unveiling Potato Blight

Potatoes have indeed been a staple food in many cultures for centuries, earning them the title of the “king of vegetables” worldwide. Their versatility allows them to be prepared in countless ways, from mashed and roasted to fried and baked, making them a favorite ingredient in a wide variety of dishes. Besides being nutrient-rich, whether as a side dish, a main course, or even a snack, potatoes have certainly earned their place as a beloved food choice for many people.

SAGROPIA: Advancing crop protection through bio-based pesticides

Vienna, February 2024: The Horizon Europe project SAGROPIA was successfully launched with a three-day kick-off meeting in Vienna from 22 – 24 January, marking the beginning of a promising five-year of collaborative approach to research and innovation in sustainable crop protection. With a budget of €6 million, SAGROPIA comprises of a consortium of 10 partners, and is led the EU-funding consultancy, RTDS Association.

Nourishing Europe: Unveiling the European Farm to Fork Strategy and exploring Candidates for Substitution (CfS) and Plant Protection Products

One of the key components of the Farm to Fork Strategy is the identification and promotion of Candidates for Substitution to address the challenges associated with traditional agricultural practices. The goal is to achieve a 50% reduction in the use of chemical pesticides by 2030.

Challenge

The European Farm to Fork policy (F2F) emphasizes on achieving food safety and security. However, consistently high yields rely on the widespread use of chemical pesticides, which need to be reduced because of their detrimental impacts on the environment and human health.

Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 identifies CfS, highlighting the importance for policymakers to replace specific active substances. This shift is challenging for the agrifood sector in the face of increasing pathogen and pest pressures in a changing environment.

Finding alternatives to traditional plant protection products (PPP) is especially challenging for row crops like potato or sugar beet, which face high pathogen pressure. Biocontrol solutions have shown success in indoor and high-value crops, but achieving scale for row crops requires innovative strategies integrated into comprehensive pest management plans.

Considering their economic significance as sources for food, feed, and processed products, the SAGROPIA project aims to showcase effective integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for potato and sugar beet crops, offering sustainable alternatives to chemical PPPs.

Solution

SAGROPIA explores the efficacy of single, biological, low-risk solutions based on plant and microbial extracts and microorganisms in replacing and / or reducing one or more chemical pesticides against the respective target pests under controlled greenhouse conditions.

SAGROPIA will obtain information on the relative activity of 13 biocontrol solutions for controlling target pests and diseases in potato and sugar beet, compared to CfS and other chemical pesticides. This is needed to develop novel IPM strategies.

SAGROPIA will upscale/formulate five biopesticides based on plant extracts or microbials, study the mode of action of eight solutions and study the toxicological profile of four. The aim is to have semi-commercial production scale and similar information for all 13 solutions.

Evaluating the currently used IPM strategies for sugar beet and potato, the consortium plans to develop alternative IPM strategies incorporating SAGROPIA solutions, to replace or reduce CfS and other chemical pesticides. Strategies are developed using a multi-actor approach (MAA) to ensure practical relevance. Developed strategies will be tested in small field trials to choose the most promising ones. These trials will be conducted in 5 countries over 3 years for each crop. The final product is a grower’s guide on best-practice, novel IPM strategies for potato and sugar beet.

Main Impacts

SAGROPIA addresses the topic CL6-2023-FARM2FORK-01-7 “Innovations in plant protection: alternatives to reduce the use of pesticides focusing on candidates for substitution”.

This project aims to reduce the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% and replace three specific pesticides in potato and sugar beet cultivation. The focus is on biocontrol methods targeting key pests such as nematodes, fungi, and insects.

This project impact directly aligns with two of the three relevant expected impacts of Horizon Europe Cluster 6 – Destination 2 “Fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food systems from primary production to consumption.”

Sustainable Farming Systems: The project aims to establish sustainable, productive, climate-neutral, and resilient farming systems. These systems are designed to provide consumers with affordable, safe, traceable, healthy, and sustainable food. Simultaneously, the project aims to minimize pressure on ecosystems, restore and enhance biodiversity, improve public health, and ensure fair economic returns for farmers.

Inclusive and Healthy Food Systems: The project aims to contribute to sustainable, healthy, and inclusive food systems. The project seeks to deliver co-benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation, environmental sustainability, circularity, sustainable healthy nutrition, safe food consumption, food poverty reduction, the inclusion of marginalized people, the empowerment of communities, and the flourishing of businesses.

Objectives

Growing concerns over the environmental impact and health risks associated with chemical pesticides have prompted the exploration of alternative, sustainable solutions for pest management in agriculture. The SAGROPIA project aims to address these challenges by focusing on five key objectives. Here are the objectives, emphasizing the significance and expected outcomes of the study.

Confirm the Efficacy of SAGROPIA Solutions
Supply Affordable Biopesticides with Known Mode of Action
Develop and validate alternative SAGROPIA integrated pest management (IPM) strategies
Test and exhibit the newly developed integrated pest management (IPM) strategies in large-scale field trials
Assess the overall sustainability of alternative integrated pest management (IPM) strategies