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Substitution of methyl bromide fumigation and disease management in strawberry crops by IPM strategies

Contract nr: FAIR-CT98-4140
Project nr: 4140
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/01/1999
Duration: 40 months
Total cost: 1,672,941 EUR
EC Contribution: 1,331,893 EUR
Scientific Officer: Richard HARDWICK
Research topic: Plant health
Acronym: IPM in strawberry

Strawberry production is one of the EU agroindustries most dependent on methyl bromide (MeBr) fumigation for pest and pathogen control. Production is concentrated in the less developed southern European regions, so phasing out of MeBr will have a disproportionate effect on these emerging economies, and will increase dependence on chemical control measures. Strawberry crops in California are predicted to decline by 25% without MeBr treatments, and similar reductions may be expected in Mediterranean countries where strawberries are farmed intensively, on US-style models. Our research will allow replacement of unsustainable cultivation practices with environmentally friendly Integrated Pest/Pathogen Management (IPM)-based systems, centred on the biocontrol of pathogens using Trichoderma agents. These are already widely used in high-value crop production, but are currently not sufficiently developed for use on strawberry pathogens. Trichoderma strains have beneficial effects in agricultural systems other than pathogen control, principally through increasing soil fertility by the active breakdown of organic matter. This process is currently seriously hindered by the non-specific action of MeBr and similar chemical fumigants, which destroy natural microbiologically mediated disease suppression in soil, and encourage rapid recolonisation by pathogens.

The project aims to:
1) promote natural, biological, physical and low-chemical control strategies for fungal pathogens and alternatives to methyl bromide and the reduction of fungicide use in European strawberry cropping systems, by developing natural biological, physical and low-chemical control strategies for fungal pathogens;
2) select naturally occurring strains of Trichoderma active against the principal fungal pathogens Collelotrichum, Phytophthora and Botrytis, and to explore their use - alone and in combination - in laboratory and field conditions;
3) to assess the efficacy and survival of selected Trichoderma strains in conjunction with solarisation techniques, and to investigate the effects of their application to beneficial soil organisms;
4) to develop novel biocides from Trlchoderma proteins and protect the strawberry fruit from pre- and post-harvest diseases;
5) to explore the synergy effects of the various control measures developed, and to recommend integrated strategies for strawberry production with minimal chemical input.

There are three major novel strands to our proposal, involving synergies between different control measures. First, combinations of selected (but not genetically modified) Trichoderma strains will be explored as soil and foliar additives, in order to increase the effectiveness and range of pathogen control. Secondly, biocontrol strains will be integrated with solarisation techniques for partial soil sterilisation. We believe that Trichoderma strains will be compatible with solarisation preferentially, allowing the maintenance of permanent pathogen-antagonistic soil systems. Thirdly, we shall combine traditional Trichoderma biocontrol systems with novel antifungal agents derived from Trichoderma enzymes, which may be used as environmentally friendly foliar sprays or post-harvest treatments. We shall also investigate synergies of biocontrol organisms and products with minimal doses of chemical control agents, to develop protocols which maximise control but minimise inputs. We will identify and promote optimal control systems using components from our IPM spectrum, which should result in effective control of strawberry diseases on a long-term sustainable basis. The experimental processes will act as a model for developing environmentally friendly control measures for pests and pathogens of other MeBr-dependent crops.

Current situation/results:
Good progress has been made in selection and initial assessment of strains (task 1.1), procurement of target strains (task 1.2), selection of biofertiliser potential (task 1.3), antibiotic screening (task 1.4), study of known and new antifungal proteins (task 2.1), production of whole-organism biomass (task 1.6) and solarisation studies (task 3.2). In addition, the Consortium has made progress on part of the research envisaged for the second year: Genetic markers (task 1.5), greenhouse and field trials at both nursery and crop level (task 1.7) and protein production (task 2.2).
Soil fumigation with MeBr is the major method for preplanting soil disenfestation for strawberries. The farmers are very satisfied with this technique since soilborne pathogens and weeds are effectively controlled, and the yield levels that are attained are good. An important benefit of this project is the development of environmentally friendly soil disinfection alternatives to MeBr and to avoid the predicted loss of strawberry production with the phaseout of MeBr. Since this fumigant has been a mainstay product for vegetable growers, this economic sector will be the potential beneficiary of our results. The research will also function as a model system for other MeBr-dependent cropping practices, such as tomato and cut flower production, as well as for other systems in which a major pesticide has to be replaced.
In global terms, the protection of the ozone layer, reductions in pesticide use, and the measurement of environmental impact are worldwide environmental benefits of this project.
IV. Achievements
The biotech company of this Consortium (Partner 7) has filed two patents referring to two fungal cell wall degrading enzymes (Partners 3 and 1), which ensure the EU exploitation of this research, which can be exported to third countries. This opens a potential market for the biological control agents developed within the EU. Partner 5 has a biocontrol agent under commercial exploitation and has extended the market with new registration records in different countries. The IPM strategies involving solarisation, biocontrol and culture techniques are in progress and results from second year trials will help to do a final selection of biocontrol strains.


Enrique MONTE
Universidad de Salamanca
Edificio Departamental
Lab 208
Avda. Campo Charro s/n
E-37001 Salamanca
Tel.: +34 923 29 45 32
Fax: +34 923 22 48 76


  • Paul Francis CANNON
    CAB International
    CABI Bioscience
    Bakeham Lane
    UK-TW2O 9TY Egham
    Tel.: +44 1784 47 01 11
    Fax: +44 1491 82 91 00

  • Antonio LLOBELL
    Universidad de Sevilla
    Instituto de Biología Vegetal y Fotosíntesis
    Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n
    Isla de la Cartuja
    E-41092 Sevilla
    Tel.: +34 954 48 95 21
    Fax: +34 954 46 00 65

  • Matteo LORITO
    Universita di Napoli "Federico II"
    Facoltà di Agraria
    Dipartamento di Patologia Vegetale
    Via Universita 100
    I-80055 Portici-Napoli
    Tel.: +39 0817 75 51 42
    Fax: +39 0817 75 51 14

  • Stanley FREEMAN
    The Volcani Center Agricultural Research Organization
    Department of Plant Pathology
    IL-50250 Bet Dagan
    Tel.: +972 39 68 35 37
    Fax: +972 39 68 35 43

  • Jaacov KATAN
    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology
    IL-76100 Rehovot
    Tel.: +972 89 48 12 17
    Fax: +972 89 46 67 94

Associate contractors

    NewBiotechnic S.A.
    Pabellón de Inglaterra
    Planta Principal
    Isla de la Cartuja
    E-41092 Sevilla
    Tel.: +34 954 50 25 77
    Fax: +34 954 50 24 58


  • Alejandro MARTINEZ
    Aplicaciones Bioquímicas S.L.
    Bell 3
    Polígono Industrial El Montalvo
    E-37008 Salamanca
    Tel.: +34 923 19 02 40
    Fax: +34 923 19 02 39
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