Together with companies and organisations involved in biological crop protection products, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has in recent years participated in the Green Deal-project, a so-called public private partnership (PPP). The cooperation has resulted in two scientific studies which provide grounds for eliminating bottlenecks in the approval process of green crop protection products. One year after their publication, both articles have been widely viewed.
The research within the Green Deal-project was mainly focused on microbial agents where an inventory of the fundamental knowledge is still lacking, and has led to two articles.
Frontiers in Plant Science
The article 'Mode of action of microbial biological control agents against plant diseases: relevance beyond efficacy' (Köhl, Kolnaar & Ravensberg, 2019) appeared in the journal ‘Frontiers in Plant Science’.
Frontiers is a peer-reviewed journal, which means that other researchers - not involved in the article - have approved it. According to the publisher, the article has been viewed more than 47,000 times, which is exceptionally high for such an article. Even more revealing is the publisher's explanation that this means the scientific article scores better than 99% of all other articles published in Frontiers during this period.
A second study that could be financed thanks to the Green Deal-project focused on the behaviour of micro-organisms in the environment: 'Ecological arguments to reconsider data requirements regarding the environmental fate of microbial biocontrol agents in the registration procedure in the European Union' (Köhl, Booij, Kolnaar & Ravensberg, 2019). This study was published after peer review in the journal BioControl, the leading authority in this field. With over 3500 visitors at the end of December, the article was the most viewed publication in BioControl in the past year.
More efficient authorisation procedure
Biological control of diseases and pests offers many options for replacing the use of synthetic crop protection agents. "Biological agents will play a special role in future resilient cultivation systems because they can be used to selectively tackle bottlenecks without damaging the microbial buffering of the cultivation system," says WUR researcher Jürgen Köhl. "One of the biggest hurdles for the application of biological crop protection agents is the authorisation procedure. The two articles show that many of the questions of the approval procedure are not relevant for microbial applications. A targeted and thus more efficient implementation of the procedure is therefore recommended."
Willem Ravensberg of interest group Artemis was involved in both publications as a co-author. He observes that both articles meet a clear need. “Beforehand, we made an inventory among the members of Artemis of the areas in which research could be helpful in simplifying admission. At the time, three bottlenecks came to the fore and we have now been able to work out these two. With the results of both studies, we have given the members of Artemis a tool to build up a dossier that can strengthen their arguments when applying for microbial crop protection products.”
A third bottleneck has not yet led to a study: research into the genetic stability of micro-organisms. Willem Ravensberg: "Scientific research into this will take a lot of time. And there has to be a budget to finance it.” Jürgen Köhl agrees: "A thorough study of genetic stability could be a third important topic to provide the necessary scientific basis for efficient regulation."