Boost for eco-farming as new biocontrol platform is launched

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The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) has launched a free-to- use dedicated online resource aimed at raising awareness of environmentally friendly biocontrol and biopesticide products  and promoting their uptake by growers, their advisors and farmers.

The CABI BioProtection Portal will be available initially as an online website that can be used on smartphones, tablets and desktop computers, to help growers and pest management advisors identify, source and correctly apply biocontrol and biopesticide products for their specific crop-pest problems. An offline version will follow within the next weeks to enable growers in areas without reliable internet access to also benefit from the tool.

It is increasingly clear that certain kinds of chemical pesticides in agriculture are creating serious health and environmental effects. According to a 2018 annual report by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) there were pesticide residues in vegetable samples collected from various outlets and markets across Kenya. Ten percent of the sampled produce was found to have residue levels above the EU maximum allowable.

The portal which is predicted to become the go-to resource for identifying and sourcing biopesticides will be particularly beneficial for growers looking to replace chemical pesticides with biological products in order to meet market or export standards, satisfy consumer demands for healthier and safer food and reduce pressures on the environment.

After officially launching the portal, Hon. Prof. Hamadi Boga, PS Ministry of Agriculture Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives highlighted how the portal not just benefit growers but also national authorities responsible for the regulation/registration of plant protection products, private-sector decision-makers – such as cooperatives and organisations operating voluntary certification schemes – and biocontrol manufacturers looking to promote wider uptake of their products.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, Executive Director, Global Operations at CABI said: “Globally, an estimated 40 percent of crops are lost to pests – such as the devastating maize pest fall armyworm and the tomato leaf miner – as well as a range of plant diseases.

The widespread use of chemical pesticides to fight crop pests alone is not sustainable either economically or environmentally in the long run especially when you factor impacts exacerbated by climate change.

“CABI is helping growers to adapt to this major challenge through projects that apply, among other things, our expertise in digital development and crop health as well as products like the BioProtection Portal which promote sustainable approaches to pest management.”

Users of the CABI BioProtection Portal will be able to enter their country and crop-pest problem query in the system and generate key information on biocontrol and biopesticide products that are authorised by national regulators for that specific search. Insights will be sourced directly from national governments’ list of registered pesticides and from partner biocontrol manufacturers.

Dr Morris Akiri, Regional Director for CABI Africa  said,  “The CABI BioProtection Portal brings together in one place the various safer and more environmentally friendly biocontrol and biopesticide products that growers can add to their ‘arsenal’ against crop pests as part of an integrated pest management plan.”

The portal will also be rolled out to a further 10-15 countries in 2020, including Spain, Brazil, Uganda and Bangladesh, and in multiple languages, with further countries to follow in 2021.

The innovative tool, has been made available by CABI in collaboration with its network of partner biocontrol manufacturers (Koppert Biological Systems, Syngenta and e-nema) and donors (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, African Development Bank and the UK Department for International Development) who provide invaluable support in the form of technical inputs, strategic guidance and funding.

The launch comes as CABI and its partners mark the inaugural International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) 2020 which aims to raise awareness of the importance and impacts of plant health in addressing world hunger, poverty, threats to the environment and economic development. As part of this effort, CABI is collaborating with Wageningen University to hold the first Plant Health, Agriculture & Bioscience Conference (PHAB 2020) which will be held on 9-11 September, 2020 in The Hague, the Netherlands.