ABIM 2019: Keynote Speakers address farming practices and broader benefits of biocontrol products

23.10.2019

For the keynote addresses for ABIM 2019 21-23 October, Professor Urs Niggli, director of FiBL, gave a presentation entitled: “Can agriculture as practised today deliver for the future?” He answered his own question by saying no, but said that it still remained for him to prove it. Citizens had already made up their minds against conventional chemical pesticides, he postulated. Then looking at the projected global population growth, Niggli asked if it was possible to produce 50 percent more food and reduce inputs. He said he was yet to find a scientist who could offer evidence that this could be done.

One of his recommendations was to reduce food waste. He made the point that this can refer to different parts of the consumer/supply chain depending on where you are in the world. In Africa, there is low food waste at consumer level but high waste at producer level. By contrast, Europe would see higher waste at consumer level and lower waste at supplier level.

The second keynote speaker was Dr. Michael Brownbridge, former research director, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Canada. With a presentation entitled, “From R&D through to commercialisation – Developing an effective IPM system”, Brownbridge gave examples of biocontrol among Canada’s greenhouse growers. High adoption rates for biocontrol in Canada are partly the result of the reduced availability of traditional chemistry, according to

cannabisBrownbridge. He mentioned that another driver was the change in legislation over the cultivation of cannabis (see New Ag International Sept/Oct 2019).
Brownbridge warned against over fertilizing, particularly with nitrogen, saying this could boost thrip numbers. He gave examples of the efficacy of biocontrol products. One of his key points was to stress the additional benefits of biocontrol products. A biofungicide that activated stress response pathways in plants also seemed to slow development of spider mite pressure. Another plant reaction was to produce a volatile compound that attracted mite predators. He concluded by saying the “how to” was important – making sure growers knew where, when and how to apply.

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