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European Fruit Magazine

Crop protection product crisis

Recently, I visited a meeting, where fruit growers were updated on developments in crop protection. What products have recently been authorised and especially, what products have disappeared or are in danger of disappearing? Having listened to all of this, the question occurred to me, how long it will take before we will have no efficacious products available at all? Okay, against fungi, we still have a reasonable package of products available in Europe, but against insects and mites, the situation in many countries is very worrying indeed.

Crop protection must be greener, with more mating disruption, beneficials, trapping harmful insects and especially with environmentally friendly products. These ‘green’ products and techniques are developed and/or tested at trial orchards and research stations. I try to follow the results of this as closely as possible, but I have hardly ever come across a product up till now, that makes it possible to reduce damage at a level comparable to that of chemical products. It is also a matter of applying double standards. In the case of a chemical product, we are not satisfied with an efficacy rate of 90% and in the case of a green product we are already shouting with joy at an efficacy rate of 75%…

And if a new chemical insecticide is authorised once in a while, enthusiasm is quickly tempered if you read the conditions under which the products may be used: during a limited period, sprayed with strong drift-reducing measures, with large cultivation-free zones around the orchard, etc. Recently, I came upon something new: an insecticide that can only be sprayed once every 3 years… From the explanation it became clear, that this restriction had found its way on to the label to reduce environmental impact. For after all, spraying every 3 years has less of an environmental impact than spraying every year. As if insects care…

The problem is only likely to become bigger in the years to come. Partly due to climate change, various new pests and diseases have made their entrance into Europe in the past couple of years. Against these invasive foreign harmful insects, hardly any or no efficacious products are on hand and the authorisation of an existing product against a new pest insect takes many years.

Meanwhile, fruit growers in a number of countries have become dependent on exemptions and temporary emergency authorisations of a number of indispensable crop protection products. These often arrive on time, but there are already various examples where a temporary authorisation was issued too late. And then we are not even talking about those situations where the fruit grower is left empty handed and has nothing at all to protect his crop against a certain pest or disease.

In my opinion, it’s about time to bring this ‘crop protection crisis’ to public attention in all possible ways. Consumers, policy makers and politicians must be aware of the fact that crops are jeopardised.

Gerard Poldervaart
EFM editor in chief