Pests and diseases (P&D) are a major constraint on the production of protected edible, and protected and outdoor ornamental crops. Chemical pesticides can no longer be relied upon as the sole method of P&D control, as significant losses of pesticide actives are occurring as a result of government legislation and the evolution of pesticide resistance in target P&D populations. Many growers already use Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPM), in which different crop protection tools are combined, including chemical, biological and cultural methods. IPM is now a required practice under the EU Sustainable Use Directive on pesticides. In order to make IPM successful, it is vital that growers have access to a full range of control agents that can be used as part of an integrated approach.
Biopesticides are plant protection products based on living microorganisms, plant or microbial extracts, or semiochemicals. A small number of biopesticides have been available to UK growers for some time, and an increasing number will be entering the market in the next few years. Within 10 – 20 years, the number of biopesticide products available is likely to exceed the number of conventional chemical pesticides. Biopesticides have a range of attractive properties, in particular they are low risk products for human and environmental safety and many are residue-exempt, meaning they are not required to be routinely monitored by regulatory authorities or retailers. While some biopesticides work well in IPM, UK growers have found others to give inconsistent or poor results, and the reasons for this are often not immediately obvious. Clearly, growers need to get the best out of biopesticide products in order to support their IPM programmes.
AMBER (Application and Management of Biopesticides for Efficacy and Reliability) is a 5-year project with the aim of identifying management practices that growers can use to improve the performance of biopesticide products within IPM. The project has three main parts:
(i) to identify gaps in our knowledge about biopesticides that are causing them to be used sub-optimally in current commercial practice.
(ii) to develop and demonstrate new management practices that can improve biopesticide performance.
(iii) to exchange information and ideas between growers, biopesticide companies and others in order to provide improved best-practice guidelines for biopesticides.