by Nicolas Desneux and Eva Thomine, INRA Sophia Antipolis

For many years, society has enjoyed the benefits of using chemical pesticides to control weeds, arthropods pests and plant diseases in agriculture. Pesticides have largely contributed to boosting agricultural production and consumers have been benefiting from extensive and large-scale use: agricultural products are now available in large quantities and sold at low prices. However, continuous use of chemical pesticides during the past decades has proved a threat to both consumers and farmers health, as well as to the environment. The development of more environmentally-sound and sustainable pest management methods followed by their wide adoption by farmers would help reduce the negative effects of chemical pesticides on human health and would also help preventing the degradation of natural resources (in terms of reduction of biodiversity, pollution of groundwater, etc.).

EUCLID’s goal is to contribute to securing food production for the increasing worldwide population while developing sustainable production approaches to be used in European and Chinese agricultures. Among agricultural products that are of concern to both Europe and China, fruits and vegetables are key ones, considering their importance in population diets, the positive effects they have on consumers’ health and their economic weight. Both regions share the similar objective of reducing chemical pesticide residues in products to be safer for domestic consumers while ensuring profitable trade among countries (China is the top world producer and exporter of various vegetables and fruits that are largely consumed by European citizens). In this context, the collaboration of European and Chinese partners in EUCLID will ensure the development of safer pest management methods for the production of healthy fruits and vegetables, i.e. with reduced chemical pesticide residues, for European and Chinese consumers.

A number of national and international European initiatives have been funded in the last 20 years with the aim to develop efficient Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions to be applied to agriculture. However, despite several promising results, farming practices have not changed substantially. EUCLID project is based on the results of many of these projects: ENDURE (EU FP6) from which EUCLID will take advantage of Bio Control Agents (BCAs) strategies, PURE (EU FP7) from which EUCLID will take advantages of BCA strategies, PLANTFOOD (EU FP7) where EUCLID will exploit the knowledge and IPM solutions for soil borne diseases’ containment for tomatoes and leafy vegetables and ASCII (EU FP7 IRSES) to increase the transfer of knowledge on European IPM methods used against invasive pests on fruit and vegetables, toward China.

To answer to the need of reducing pesticide use by farmers and come to an evolution in the farming practices at the end of this four years project, EUCLID project first aims to optimize and develop some IPM methods. To do so, different steps are needed. EUCLID project is (1) optimizing existing management methods for key agricultural pests, evaluating them and overcoming the limits which currently prevent their widespread use and (2) develop novel protection methods taking into account stakeholders priorities and preferences. The project also aims to design and assess innovative pest management methods and newly designed IPM solutions under commercial field conditions to check if the adoption of these different techniques is possible. Finally this knowledge will be disseminated to the different key stakeholders of agricultural networks to maximize the results dissemination. By involving various types of stakeholders in the EUCLID project (farmers, researchers, industries, politics…), sustainable solutions that correspond to every stakeholders expectations are expected to be effectively delivered.

EUCLID will enable the transfer of knowledge on accurate vs. inaccurate combinations of BCAs. This will promote the use of efficient BCA combinations as well as reducing misuse(s) of inaccurate and risky ones. Many high potential innovative pest management methods (RNAi technology, resistance inducers, Sterile Insect Technique, high quality suppressive compost, botanical pesticides), or particular management paradigm approaches (new crop planting schemes, climate based management methods) are still seeking to be developed for benefiting to farmers cropping fruits and vegetables. By bringing to farmers this new knowledge, EUCLID project will bring them business planning methods in order to assess the economic convenience of IPM tools and will increase their knowledge about IPM techniques thanks to training provided throughout the project. SMEs involved in EUCLID will be assisted by research with identification, compilation and transfer of data to optimize innovation and identify new areas for possible innovations. The IPM tools developed will correspond to the market needs, thus filing the gap between research and innovation. EUCLID project will give to the industries a clear evaluation of consumers’ perception and acceptance of new products. It will provide to consumers safer food by reducing pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables and will enhance food security at a global level. Finally, it will give to policy makers a demonstration of the environmental and economic benefits of IPM practices and provide them with guidelines to support European and Chinese policies on IPM measures.