Project: Improving microbiological products for sustainable crop management

The proposal aims at improving industrial ("Green economy" based) microbiological products for use in sustainable agriculture, based on beneficial fungi and plant growth promoting bacteria. They will fill actual technological gaps related to the conservation of soil fundamental functions. Market demands to be met concern technical tools to sustain plant nutrition, stability of soil food webs and to manage pests and pathogens (cyst and root-knot nematodes, soil pathogenic fungi). Organic crops offer a possible, sustainable green future for EU agriculture and are already a reality in several countries, from Mediterranean to Northern EU regions. Organic crops, more than conventional ones for which IPM rules apply, are highly sensitive and dependent on plant nutrition, as conservation of soil fertility does not rely on chemicals. These productions need to improve and sustain soil fertility and functions only by organic matter addition, enhancing soil complexity and/or exploiting natural resources. In organic (and most advanced conventional croppings as well) soil is not a passive root container but a living natural resource, to be conserved through sustainable practices for future generations. This consideration is more and more accepted by farmers and consumers, and opens the way to the development of innovative microbiological products, alternative to conventional ones, based on useful microorganisms. As linked, but not only limited to the sector of organic farming, the production of new technical tools for intensive crops represents today a growing market sector, at the international level._x000D_Together with plant nutrition, pest and disease control is today a fundamental issue in organic as well as conventional agriculture. Furthermore, both systems are sensitive to plant protection issues, the former due to the lack of detailed management knowledge, the latter for the EU restrictions or withdrawal of several pesticides. As a consequence, any technological advancement realized in organic systems improving productivity, efficacy of fertilization and plant protection will also produce broader, beneficial effects in conventional agriculture markets, amplifying by this way the social and ecological benefits gained by new crop technologies, with higher benefits and new market opportunities. To develop innovative plant growth promoting products, on a microbiological basis, it is necessary to produce a large amount of information and to deploy efforts on the occurrence, ecology, biology, production and testing of microorganisms, as well as on their effective formulations and field efficacy._x000D_Aim of this project is to improve a line of emerging soil emending and plant protection products already in commerce by ELEP (Pochar and others), GLEN Biotech and CLAMITEC, and based on microorganisms like the endophytic fungus Pochonia chlamydosporia and other useful fungi (Beauveria spp.). Pochonia is a widespread soil fungus and a true endophyte, colonising root epidermal and cortex cells. It is hyperparasitic on economically important plant or animal nematodes, with applications also as a biopesticide. Differences among isolates of this fungus from different hosts suggest a long-term, adaptive evolutionary and specialization process. Beauveria spp. are the only biological control agents found effective against the red palm weevil thus far, and are actually produced and used in Spain._x000D_Knowledge about the biochemical events leading to endophytism or parasitism and the mechanisms involved in their regulation will allow new strategies to improve the reliability of P. chlamydosporia and other fungi as rhizosphere or pests management tools, since these species behave differently in response to local availability of nutrients. Products combining the effects of endophytic fungi on plant nutrition and management of invertebrates, and in particular of red palm weevil or nematodes, and related marketing strategies, are within the goals of this Project._x000D_In conclusion the Project will lead to: 1) the definition of best industrial production parameters, including solid or liquid fermentation processes for mass production of microbial biomass at the industrial scale, for a number of selected useful microorgansims; 2) the products integration with other beneficial soil microorganisms (fungi or bacteria) eventually identified during the Project; 3) the identification of best methods for products conservation, including formulation additives, stabilizers and coadjuvants and 4) the identification of best conditions for use and application, including packaging, methods for release in soil and for roots/plant colonization, by means of field trials and soil analyses, finalized at their placement on the market. Feedback from dealers and farmers will be used to improve the products' lines and quality through market studies, in order to fit growers' needs in varying conditions and in a wide range of agro-ecosystems, at the EU level and worldwide.

Acronym Poch-art (Reference Number: 7364)
Duration 01/09/2012 - 29/02/2016
Project Topic Due to intensification of sustainable productions, farmers are facing challenges for soil fertility and crop protection. Our aim is to develop and improve products based on useful microorganisms, including endophytic fungi and bacteria, for plant nutrition, soil biomanagement and protection.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 8

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
4 Istituto per la Protezione Sostenibile delle Piante Partner Italy
4 Clamitec Myco Solutions, LDA Partner Portugal
4 Sacom Lab S.p.A. Sole Proprietorship Coordinator Italy
4 Glen Biotech S. L. Observer Spain