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  • 18-01-2024

Basic Substances for Biocontrol in Agriculture: A Sustainable Approach to Crop Protection

Agriculture is the main pillar of human civilization, as it provides not only food, but also fibre and other plant products essential for our survival and economic development. Despite its importance, it faces constant challenges, in special with pests and diseases threatening crops. In response to this, instead of resorting exclusively to chemical pesticides, there is a sustainable and environmentally-friendly solution: biocontrol. 

This refers to a strategy based on the use of living organisms or plant substances to fight diseases caused by pathogenic organisms. 

Within the scope of biocontrol, products derived from natural extracts, called basic substances, are prominent. These are covered by Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009, which deals with the placing of plant protection products on the market.

The aforementioned substances offer multiple benefits, among which the strengthening of the plants natural defences stands out mainly. For example:

  • Increase of the cell wall. Thanks to the presence of silicon, there are extracts that promote the strengthening of plant tissues, thus hindering the penetration of certain insects and fungi.
  • Optimization of the adherence of natural pesticides. There are extracts that enhance the adherence of other natural biocontrol agents. In addition, they act as natural emulsifiers, increasing the efficiency of foliar treatments.
  • Insect repellent. Certain extracts have chemicals and nutrients which an unpleasant smell and taste for various pests. These compounds repel insects, keeping them away from plants treated with these natural extracts.
  • Enhancement of the immune system. The application of minerals, such as nitrogen and iron, is essential for plant growth and development. These nutrients enhance their immune system, making them more resistant to diseases and pests.
  • Attraction of useful insects. While certain extracts may repel some pests, they may also attract useful insects, such as ladybirds and parasitoid wasps, which feed on pests. These useful insects help maintain the balance in the ecosystem and control pest populations.

EXAMPLES OF BASIC SUBSTANCES AND APPLICATION

  • Horsetail:(Equisetum arvense) is a plant rich in silicon, making it beneficial for strengthening plant tissues, stimulating plant growth and improving resistance to pests and diseases. It is also known for its anti-fungal properties. Horsetail commonly repel pests such as aphids, spider mites and greenflies.
  • Soy lecithin: A natural emulsifier that is often used as a bonding agent in the mixture of natural pesticides and oils. It helps treatments adhere better to the leaves and thus be more effective.  Soy lecithin itself does not fight pests, but enhances the effectiveness of other natural pesticides by ensuring an even distribution on plants.
  • Nettle extract: This basic substance is obtained from nettle leaves and contains essential nutrients such as nitrogen, iron and other minerals. It is beneficial for plant growth and strengthens its immune system. It also acts as a natural repellent for certain pests. Nettle extract is known to repel pests such as aphids, caterpillars and greenflies.
  • Sunflower oil: This compound is used in agriculture as an agent which suffocates insects. When applied as an insecticidal oil, it coats insects, blocking their spiracles (breathing systems) and causing suffocation. In addition, it may have fungicidal properties. Sunflower oil is effective against a wide range of pests, including aphids, spider mites, mealybugs and some beetles.

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