Protected crops

Activity leader:

Christine PONCET (INRA): - 33 (0)4 92 38 65 26


In the world of crop protection, the common perception is that greenhouses are farming system types where IPM and biological control in particular have been very successful. Yet, the reality is that the total area under biological and integrated control in greenhouses is still very marginal: in 2007 it was estimated to represent at most 5% of the total greenhouse world area. The vast majority of greenhouses are therefore under conventional chemical pest control which in many greenhouse crops can mean 40 pesticide treatments per year. However, recent evolution in pepper cultivation in Southern Spain under retailer pressure has demonstrated the real potential for increasing BCAs use even in low/medium tech CEA. Based on past experience with IPM in ornamentals, the IPM solutions developed by PURE will provide the basis to generate a 90% reduction in the frequency of chemical applications.


The overall objective of this activity is to design more robust IPM solutions to implement not only in high-tech greenhouse systems. These robust solutions to pest problems need also to integrate current and major system disturbances as the cutting back of fossil energy input and the exotic pest invasions.

• Design IPM solutions adapted for different levels of greenhouse technology (based on a combination of strategic options and tactic components) that reduce reliance on pesticides and risks to human health while providing cost-effective investment.

• Ensure that these solutions satisfy the needs of concerned stakeholders via on-station and on-farm trials and consider the robustness of towards potential climate change and pest invasions.

• Disseminate usable results.


We will focus on IPM solutions for CEA mostly in the Southern parts of Europe where the concerns on pesticide use are the most serious, but with a reference to Northern Europe (Pilkington et al., 2009).

We will address two major bottlenecks that can be indentified:

1. Greenhouse engineering and technologies are improving tremendously in relation to energy and plant physiology issues, but, until now, their impact on crop protection has not been sufficiently considered.

2. Much attention has been placed on developing biocontrol methods, but despite considerable experimental efforts, numerous unexplained failures are observed in real cropping conditions. Approaches have relied too much on trial-and-error and the ecological knowledge base underpinning biocontrol in greenhouses is still insufficient.

We intend to overcome these bottlenecks in the following ways:

• We will consider several technological options (including the latest emerging technologies in greenhouse design and management) in each of the three CEA farming systems (high, medium and low-tech). We will examine how these options determine the range of pests occurring on the crop and adjust the optimal combination of methods to manage these multiple pests. Therefore, we will consider IPM solutions as associating on the one hand a “technological package” which represents a strategic choice from the grower, and on the other hand a “tactic package” (i.e. a combination of control tactics including a pool of BCAs and semiochemicals).

• Compared to other cropping systems investigated in PURE, CEA systems host simplified biotic communities, complex enough however to be managed with an ecological approach. We will use an ecological modelling of the pest-beneficials communities to guide the definition and optimization of biocontrol, especially where applied in greenhouses in which the physical means of pest control are suboptimal.

The issue of the robustness of IPM solutions facing disturbances due to climate change or exotic pest invasions will be addressed through a multidisciplinary approach. Tomato has been selected as the target crop because of its economic importance and large scale cultivation in Mediterranean areas (31% of the worldwide production in 2005. Source: CIHEAM). It is also a good case study for pest invasions with the recent history of virus-transmitting white flies and the new threat posed by Tuta absoluta. However, conclusions drawn from this case will be enriched by experience gathered from other greenhouse crops to improve our understanding of CEA systems and to further extend application of the results on a wider range of protected crops.

We will follow the design-assessment-adjustment loop taking advantage of the opportunity offered by the CEA systems to introduce multiple loops at the experimental stage, allowing for a real time optimization of the tactic package by continued interaction with "New knowledge and technologies" research activities. Firstly, a survey of the latest and emerging technologies, greenhouse designs, innovative practices and of the current IPM situation will be conducted for the three CEA systems in the most relevant growing areas in Europe. Promising IPM solutions defined as combinations of “technological packages” and “tactic packages” will be evaluated through the involvement of stakeholders in expert-based assessment. A network of European research stations will be mobilized in Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and France, to investigate direct performance and side-effects of selected IPM solutions via system experiments taking into account pest communities. Combinations of optimized technological packages and control tactics will be tested in on-farm experiments jointly conducted by researchers, advisers and growers. A participatory ex-post assessment will be performed to endorse viable solutions and prepare their dissemination.

Experimental sites:

Description of Deliverables:

Performance and side effects of IPM solutions using model-based tools tested by greenhouse trial

Test of IPM solutions by assessing direct performance and side-effects of tactics packages in greenhouse experimental conditions and by optimizing the potential levers provided by greenhouse technology (the “technological package” = technological level of the greenhouse structure, its equipment and global management governed by a long-term financial strategy). Regarding the biotic components, the aim is to reveal non-targeted biotic interactions that occur in real greenhouse conditions when using biological control strategy

Ex-post assessment of the selected scenarios after testing in real farming conditions.

IPM solutions tested in experimental stations and farms and updates of database of alternatives to pesticides and IPM solutions

Prospective study on the robustness of the integrated production and protection solutions with regard to global climate change.

Ex-post assessment will also consider the robustness of the selected solutions for integrated production and protection regarding their ability to cope with upcoming disturbances: climate change (temperature and CO2 concentration increase) and potential pest invasions (learning from the recent and contrasted history of such major invasive pests as Tuta absoluta and Bemisia tabaci).

IPM guidelines for protected vegetables in Europe

PURE will contribute to the definition of IPM standards throughout Europe by developing IPM guidelines in several cropping systems and guidelines for a multi-criteria assessment of crop protection standards.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/ 2007-2013) under the grant agreement n°265865- PURE