Blog Posts Sari Autio Ilkka P Laurila Agriculture, Environment

Europe has a recognised need for reducing chemical plant protection products and associated risks and for developing viable non-chemical alternatives, but this cannot be done overnight.

At the end of February, the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) was one of the signatories to the Towards Chemical Pesticide-Free Agriculture initiative of European research institutions. The initiative, signed at the Paris International Agricultural Show, involves 24 research institutions from 16 European countries. Ilkka P. Laurila signed the initiative in Luke’s name.

The initiative combines the forces of research institutions to produce research themes for the EU-funded Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. Thus, the initiative responds to EU strategies aimed to discontinue the use of chemical plant protection products in Europe as part of the EU Commission’s Green Deal programme.

The goal is to increase research data

The research initiative does not directly aim to provide political guidance for stopping the use of chemical plant protection, but to produce research data to support decision-making processes so that Europe is ready when it is willing to make the transition in the future. This calls for changes in mindsets and extensive multidisciplinary research in various sectors.

Research data is needed to support the development and use of alternative agricultural methods and practices in the long term. The goal is to improve the profitability of agriculture and the health of crops by means of plant disease resistance, crop rotation and nutrient balance. Extensive interdisciplinary and international research cooperation is needed in terms of cultivation practices, plant breeding, technologies, agricultural economics, political steering, consumer behaviour, global trade and environmental impact assessments so that the impact of the transition can be forecasted and new methods can be implemented in Europe.

Luke emphasises the need for various new methods with regard to plant protection. Finnish markets for chemical plant protection products are small, and not many chemical products are available for different crop protection problems.

Luke emphasises the need for various new methods with regard to plant protection. Finnish markets for chemical plant protection products are small, and not many chemical products are available for different crop protection problems. As resistance risks are increasing, we need non-chemical options alongside chemical products. Research is needed to develop new biological protection concepts and integrated pest management (IPM) methods, the use of which supplements conventional chemical methods. Research institutions play a central part in producing this research data, and European cooperation is necessary to predict general long-term development.

Signing the initiative in Paris. Picture taken by Pierre Dussort.

Preparing for future challenges

Organic production and its comprehensive agroecological crop protection practices show that pests can be controlled using non-chemical methods. Then again, as climate change moves forward, we will face new challenges, against which no chemical products or solutions are available or they are not effective. The large-scale adoption of new methods and technologies requires that farmers are provided with training and guidance, effectively communicating new research breakthroughs.

As climate change moves forward, we will face new challenges, against which no chemical products or solutions are available or they are not effective.

This is the type of research cooperation the research institutions that signed the initiative aim to advance. The initiative was launched by INRAE, ZALF and JKI, French and German research institutions for agriculture. To prepare the initiative, international research seminars were held for two years in France, Germany and Finland, with Luke and the Finnish Organic Research Institute being actively involved.

Cooperation within the research community will also be continued, for example, through seminars and workshops to come up with new shared ideas for projects. Our task is to communicate the societal significance of the initiative and to continue our dialogue with the European Commission, European Parliament and national bodies on the replacement of chemical plant protection products with other methods.

 

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