Growers face headache over crop protection chemicals

Over-reliance on crop-protection chemicals has created a situation analogous to the growth of antibiotic resistance in human health, Warwick Crop Centre researcher Dr Dave Chandler told the conference, adding that this together with growing restrictions on their use means growers will have to familiarise themselves with alternative strategies.

Dave Chandler: leading £1.5m AHDB-funded AMBER project
Dave Chandler: leading £1.5m AHDB-funded AMBER project

"Crop-protection products have been used in an unsustainable way, so insect resistance continues to grow, besides problems of environmental damage and residues," he said. "In 1998 we had over 1,000 products. Now it's around 300 and we could soon lose a further 80."

This provides the context of the five-year £1.15m AHDB-funded Application & Management of Biopesticides for Efficacy & Reliability (AMBER) project, which Chandler leads.

"With IPM, we have a range of tools that complement each other, allowing you to treat chemical pesticides as a precious resource," he said. "You don't have a choice in this - under the Sustainable Use Directive it's mandatory. We are seeing an expansion of products available including microand macro-organisms, plant extracts and semiochemicals. In five or ten years' time more biological than conventional products will be approved."

AMBER will seek to determine how these can be used most effectively, he said. "A large body of evidence now says they can be effective within an IPM approach, though the performance of some products is suboptimal. Microbes have temperature and humidity requirements, and how long do they persist? We need a clear understanding of what makes them work, or not." Having begun at the start of this year, data from the project "is just starting to come in", he added.

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