Agriculture is a crucial activity for our economy, providing food, raw materials, employment and income. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agricultural activity represents almost 40% of world GDP and agricultural goods are responsible for 43% of world exports. Since approximately ¼ of the land’s surface is cultivated, all impacts associated with agriculture have universal effects. This is a particularly relevant fact because, in a world in which the global population will reach 8.3 billion inhabitants in 2030, it will be necessary to produce between 35% and 50% more food and with less environmental impacts, in order to comply with climate change goals.
But for the success of this project, it is urgent to win important struggles, both in the laboratories and in the fields. No other problem limits agricultural production as strongly as pests and diseases, so, being able to control them is one of the great current challenges facing farmers in all countries. Although more than € 60 billion are spent annually on pesticides worldwide, between 30% and 50% of global agricultural production is destroyed by pests and diseases. The Mediterranean region is one of the most affected by climate change and the movement of new pests and diseases, for some of which there is no known solution.
To address these problems, InnovPlantProtect develops innovative bio-based solutions and plants resistant to pests and diseases, promoting safer, more productive and more sustainable agricultural crops. Our work focuses on the specific problems of Mediterranean crops, in particular those resulting from the emergence of new pests and diseases associated with the global increase in average temperature.
We develop our products at least until the proof of concept stage and our solutions are licensed for commercialization. The concepts that we are developing will result in new biopesticides (pesticides of biological nature) against pests and diseases, in new formulations and matrices for agricultural applications, in new plant varieties with characteristics that face the challenges of production, in new methods of diagnosis and monitoring of pests and diseases, and in new models of risk and application of biopesticides. We use several technologies, including cyber-physical systems, robotics/ drones, sensors and artificial intelligence.
The selection of the problems to be solved (pests and diseases) and the products to be developed is entirely up to the InnovPlantProtect associates, who, together, identify priorities and define the necessary investment.
Among the emerging pests and diseases already selected and which are the subject of InnovPlantProtect’s activity are yellow rust (in wheat), Xylella fastidiosa (in olive trees), brown spot of Rocha pear and rice blast.
Other pests and diseases that may become the object of InPP activity are, among others, Drosophila suzukii, which affects various fruits, cephalosporiosis (a soil fungal disease that attacks corn), Trioza erytreae (citrus greening vector) and the Guatemalan moth, whose larvae build galleries in tubers like potatos.
There is currently no efficient solution on the market for these pests and diseases.