The growing public awareness of threats to human health and environmental safety has contributed to a significant stepping up of efforts to reduce all risks in this area. In plant protection, the majority of efforts are targeted at risks associated with the widespread use of chemicals. The existing provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market and having regard to the principles of integrated pest management clearly give “priority to non-chemical and natural alternatives wherever possible”. Biological methods are among the most popular types of non-chemical plant protection treatments. They rely on biological agents that are safe for human health and the environment. In terms of origin, these agents are classified into two major groups, i.e. naturally occurring in a given environment, and those from other areas and/or produced on an industrial scale, and then introduced or released into a given environment. In a broad sense, biological agents include viruses and pathogenic micro-organisms and/or micro-organisms competing with pests (i.e. bacteria, protozoa, fungi), beneficial macro-organisms (i.e. predatory mites and insects, parasitic insects), substances of plant and animal origin (i.e. extracts, active molecules), and semiochemicals (pheromones, allomones, kairomones).
In the practice of using the biological methods, plant protection relies on three main strategies: classical control, augmentation and conservation. The strategies vary in application and the biological agents they employ. Classical biological control involves the introduction of useful, predominantly non-native, biocontrol agents into the environment to control or significantly suppress the population of either native or non-native pests. Such organisms are usually obtained from the areas of their natural distribution and are released in new areas, where they are expected to establish and effectively keep the pest population down to a safe level. The biological control targeted at augmentation involves the periodic introduction of beneficial micro- and/or macro-organisms obtained from large-scale cultures into crop fields. These organisms are appropriately formulated and delivered in the form of biopesticides. Under this strategy, the biological agent should act immediately whenever possible, and is not expected to be established in the new area. This strategy is most popular in commercial crops (cultivation under cover, mushroom farms, orchards, and some field and forest crops). Conservation control relies on such landscape features as are naturally occurring or have been specially created in agricultural and forest areas to foster the populations of beneficial insects that naturally live in these habitats. The main objective of these efforts is to improve habitat quality for these organisms by diversifying the landscape, thus creating shaded places and hides, suitable wintering sites, and securing a necessary diverse food base for naturally occurring entomophages. A key to this strategy is the rational use of selective chemicals to reduce their deleterious effect on beneficial organisms.
The steady growth of the biopesticide market indicates the huge popularity of biological methods in plant protection worldwide. This is particularly true for crops intended for direct consumption and required to meet the most rigorous safety standards (such as fruit, vegetables, mushrooms and baby food). However, in recent years, the safety of certain biological agents/biopesticides has also raised serious concerns, both in relation to human health and the environment. It is therefore necessary to comply with relevant provisions that define rules for their use, for the detailed assessment of their impact on human health and the environment into which they are released during plant treatment, and the registration of biological agents/biopesticides in plant protection practice. At the level of the European Union, such provisions have been clearly defined for viruses, microbiological agents and substances of natural origin. The current list of biopesticides approved for use in Poland is available on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MRiRW). The rules and decisions regarding the release of beneficial macro-organisms should be established at national level, but only some EU Member States have managed to develop relevant legislation.
Project implemented as part of tasks 1.5
Multiannual Program of the IPP-NRI for 2016-2020
Plant Protection Institute – National Research Institute
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Online Pest Warning System