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A phytosanitary is a product that contains one or more active substances and that it is destined for:

  • -        To protect vegetables or vegetable products against harmful organisms or avoid their action.
  • -        To influence the vital process of the vegetables.
  • -        To improve the conservation of vegetable products.
  • -        To destroy vegetables or vegetables’ parts or control or avoid an inadequate growing.

The use of these chemical products has been one of the basis for crop production. However, if these practices are utilised badly, they can be very dangerous either for the environment or the human health.

The abuse on the use of these products creates important problems of environmental pollution, since these products accumulate in the soil and in the water. Another serious problem is the creation of resistances to products or chemical groups because, when a product is effective, there is a tendency to use it repeatedly, As a consequence, the chances to control pest, diseases and weeds decrease.

Besides, most of the phytosanitaries are also harmful for natural enemies, so an ecological imbalance is produced.

The Directive 2009/128/EC establishes the framework to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides, giving priority to non-chemical alternatives and making a correct use of phytosanitary products when necessary (dose limitation, number of applications, specific treatments, etc.). Furthermore, phytosanitary products have to be specific for the pest or disease and have to have the minimum side effects for human health, for the environment, and for the beneficial organisms. In this sense, the use of most respectful phytosanitaries such as bioplaguicides or other products has to be prioritized

Implementation of this measure in LIFE AGROintegra project:

The reduction in the use of synthesis phytosanitary products maintaining production and quality of crops has been the most important aim of all the real-scale demonstrations and the transformation of farms in LIFE AGROintegra project-

Some trials have tried to demonstrate the possibility of optimizing the use of phytosanitaries, through different strategies:

- Strategies to reduce the dose of fungicide to control yellow rust in wheat.

- Moments of application of herbicides to control weeds in cereals.

Physical control


This kind of control consists in the utilisation of a physical agent in order to modify the physical environment of the pest or disease.  

A lot of different options can be found among the physical strategies: tillage, mulching, photoselective covers, etc.

- Utilisation of a hoeing machine between the crop rows to avoid emerging weeds.

- Ploughing with flexible tine harrow to eliminate recently emerging weeds.

- Placing of mulching (plastic, paper, organic materials) in the entire surface (green houses) or around the crop (mainly fruit trees or horticultural crops).

- Placing of black plastic mulching, that avoids the normal proper development of a pest. For example, in the case of asparagus, this technique avoids the bean seed fly laying eggs near the crop.

-Placing meshes in greenhouses’ apertures and covering fruit trees to avoid insects damaging crops. Besides, in horticultural crops, agricultural thermal blankets can contribute to protect against pests.

Implementation of this measure in LIFE AGROintegra project:

Some experiences regarding physical control have been done in the framework of LIFE AGROintegra project. In some horticultural crops (broccoli and green beans) the effect of a hoeing machine in the control of weeds that are between the crop rows.

Biological control


The biological control is based on the release of natural enemies, to control harmful organisms of the crops. In particular, the biological control looks for the reduction of pests to levels that are economically justified and that guarantee the survival of natural enemies.

There are different types of biological control:

-          Classic: The introduction of exotic species to control pests. The aim of this technique is to establish the exotic species permanently becoming them autochthonous.

-          Augmentative: The biological control agents are produced in laboratories and then, they are released several times each year.

-          Conservative: It is based on the modification of the surrounding and the existing practices in order to protect and enhance natural enemies that can be found in the surrounding.

Among the natural enemies there are predatory arthropods, parasitoids and other entomopathogenic organisms (bacteria, fungus, nematodes and virus). Some information about different families of auxiliary fauna is collected bellow:

- Predatory bugs:

There are two important families inside this group: miridae and antocoridae.

The family Miridae is very polyphagous. They have thin body and long extremities. They feed on Cabbage whitefly nymphs and also small larvae, aphids and trips. Macrolophus are an example of Miridae.

The family Antocoridae is also very polyphagous. They are characterised by its small size and its black colour. They are used to control pear sucker, red spider mite and trips, but they also feed on small larvae and aphids. One example of Antocoridae is the genus Orius.  




Figure 6. Adult of Orius niger in a flower of pepper

- Coccinelidae:

Lady beetles are perhaps the most familiar insect predators in most agricultural crops. They are usually red-orange with black spots on the wing covers. Adults and larvae of this family feed on aphids.




Figure 7. Larvae of Coccinella septempunctata


- Crysophidae:

Pale green insects, with big transparent wings can be found within the family. Larvae are predators of aphids, while adults feed on nectar and pollen. Chrysoperla carnea is an example of Crysophidae.



Figure 8. Crisopa (Chrysoperla carnea) in peach tree

- Parasitoids:

It is a group of families of small wasps, dark in color. The females put their eggs within an egg, larva or pupa of a host insect. The resulting larvae feed on the host insect and leave it when it is an adult. Adults feed on nectar and pollen.

This family consists of small to medium flies, which have yellow and black striped bodies. Adults feed primarily on nectar and pollen, while larvae prey on aphids.



Figura 9. Episyrphus balteatus

Natural enemies require nutritional and habitat resources that are often not found in conventional agricultural fields, so it is recommended to use this technique with strategies that allow conserving them (flower stripes, fences, banker plants…),

Implementation of this measure in LIFE AGROintegra project:

This technique has been applied in two of the demonstrations that have been done with fruit trees. In apple tree Amblyseius californicus and Phytoseilus permisilis were released to control red spider mite (Panonychus ulmi) (Figure 10). In pear tree Anthocoris nemoralis were released to control pear sucker (Cacopsylla pyri).





Figure 10. Release of phytoseiids in apple tree


Furthermore, biological control has been applied in more experiences during the second campaign of the project. Thus, releases of Macrolophus sp. and Nesidiocoris sp. have been done in different horticultural crops (tomato, chard, borage, thistle…).

Biotechnological control


Biotechnological control consists in the utilisation of effective pest control practices, which are sustainable and respectful with the environment. One of these biotechnological techniques is the use of synthetic pheromones that imitate the molecular composition of the sexual hormones of the female of the specie which is going to be controlled.  

Implementation of this measure in LIFE AGROintegra project:

Different techniques of biotechnological control have been applied in some of the real scale demonstrations (matting disruption, massive capture…). These techniques have been applied in a lot of different crops: fruit trees (peach tree, apple, tree and pear tree), horticultural crops (tomato, spinach, green beans, broccoli, borage and chard) and vineyard.

Massive capture

This technique consists in placing a great number of traps with an attractive substance and its aim is to capture the largest amount of harmful organisms, reducing its population. This attractive substance could be a pheromone or food bait.

This technique has been applied in LIFE AGROintegra demonstration to decrease the population of species such as: Ceratitis capitata, Autographa gamma, Helicoverpa armigera, Spodoptera exigua, Agrotis segetum, Peridroma saucia and Plutella xylostella.

The different traps used for massive capture are described below:

- Funnel trap: It is a trap prepared to capture lepidoptera (Autographa gamma, Spodoptera exigua, Helicoverpa armígera, Peridroma saucia, Agrotis segetum, etc.). The pheromone attracts males, which once inside the trap, cannot escape. If the attractive is food bait, either males or females can be captured.



Figure 11. Funnel trap for massive capture in peach tree

- Delta trap: It is a trap that allows capturing small lepidoptera (Cydia pomonella, Tuta absoluta, Anarsia lineatella, etc.). The lower part of the trap consists of a gummed cardboard where the pheromone is place. This pheromone attracts insects, which remain glued in the cardboard.

- Chromatic trap: It is a yellow gummed cardboard that attracts insects because of its colour. Sometimes this method is enough to capture pests (physical method), but other times it has to be used with the combination a pheromone in order to increase its attractive power (biotechnical method).  

Matting disruption

This technique is based on the use of diffusers (figure 12) that disperse synthetic sexual pheromones which are specific for the pest that is going to be controlled. These diffusers are distributed in the plot and release their content gradually. The atmosphere is filled of pheromone so it is very difficult for the male to find the female to mate.


Figure 12. Diffusors for sexual confusion

It is a much extended technique in the control of Cydia pomonella in apple tree, pear tree and walnut tree; Anarsia lineatella and Grapholita molesta in fruit trees and Lobesia botrana in vineyard.

There are some controlled-release diffusers (puffer) that release pheromone periodically in certain moments of the day. This allows saving the quantity of pheromone by releasing it in the moment of pests’ maximum activity (figure 13).



Figure 13. Controlled-release diffusers (puffer) in apple tree

Enhancement of auxiliary fauna


This preventive measure contributes to favour the presence of auxiliary insects and thus, help control pests. A lot of species of natural enemies need sources of foodstuff (pollen, nectar, arthropods…) that can be provided by the establishment of habitats of vegetation near the crops.

The implementation of hedges and flower strips in the borders of plots or in free spaces between crops, allows creating spaces without treatments that act as a biological reservoir.

These hedges serve as refuge for auxiliary fauna at the end of the vegetative cycle. It is interesting to combine different vegetal species, with distinct flowering periods, in order to obtain a more diversified entomofauna. Besides the fact that hedges are an accommodation for the auxiliary insects, they act as a physical protection by reducing the effects of the wind, erosive effects, etc.  




Figure 2. Installation of fences and in plot’s borders


With regard to flower strips, they are more attractive than the crop so higher levels of pests and auxiliaries are observed in them. Some aspects have to be considered when selecting the strip: the number of flowers of the specie, the production of pollen, the flowering period… This flowering period has to be suitable for the crop cycle and, as with the hedges, it is interesting to combine different types of species such as to increase the biodiversity.



Figure 3. Flower stripe with various vegetal species

Banker plants are specially used in greenhouses and they contribute to the development of auxiliary fauna by providing them the required resources (other insects, pollen, nectar…) which cannot be found in crops. These natural enemies disperse into the crop and help to control other pests.

Additionally, the installation of nest-boxes is also common to boost predatory birds (owls, kestrels…). This preventive measure consists in the placing of nest-boxes in posts or buildings, in areas where there are problems with voles and other rodents.

Implementation of this measure in LIFE AGROintegra project:

Flower stripes have been established in different trials with some horticultural crops (chard, borage and thistle) and in the demonstration carried out in tomato crop and broccoli. Some of the vegetal species that were used in the flower stripes were: Cosmos bipinnatus, Cosmos sulphureus, Zinnia elegans, Calendula officinalis, Coreopsis tinctoria, Helianthus annus, Centaurea cyanus…




Figure 4. Flower stripes established in horticultural crops

The presence and abundance of auxiliary fauna in fences and flower stripes has been monitored, identifying Families and Orders. This task has been done by the University of Navarra in the framework of a doctoral thesis made by Xabier Elizalde Gaztea “Bandas floridas e insecticidas ecológicos en cultivos hortícolas de Navarra: estudio de su eficacia y sus efectos sobre el control biológico de plagas”.

Besides, in Sartaguda and Baretón trees and fences have been implemented as part of the IPM strategy.



Figure 5. Nest-boxes to boost predatory birds

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