Future pathways towards sustainable crop protection in Greenhouse horticulture

March 28, 2023

In this report, the consequences of the European authorisation policy for plant protection products are analysed within the context of the implementation of the Farm to Fork Strategy for Dutch Greenhouse horticulture. The Farm to Fork Strategy contains the objectives of reducing the overall use and risk of both chemical and microbial pesticides by 50% and reducing the use of more hazardous pesticides (Candidates for Substitution) by 50% by 2030.

This strategy is meant to move towards a sustainable food system that can bring environmental, health and social benefits and simultaneously offers economic gains. Five crops have been analysed: tomato, cucumber, gerbera, chrysanthemum and Phalaenopsis, an orchid.  

By 2030, the time horizon set in the Farm to Fork strategy, greenhouse growers will have fewer products at hand to control pests and diseases. Many products pass their expiry date before 2030. This means that the number of chemical and microbial active ingredients that are then allowed will likely be reduced by 25-30%.   


Dutch greenhouse growers use biocontrol in combination with selected chemical plant protection products. If some of these latter products are prohibited, it might become a challenge to continue protecting plants against pests and diseases. The grower might then decide to apply a broad-spectrum product to protect crops instead of applying biocontrol. If there are fewer products (biological or chemical) available, this could increase yield loss by up to 20%.  

Ornamental production could lose even more, because there is a zero-tolerance policy for pests and pathogens present in the product. There is always a risk that diseases will become resistant to plant protection products. When there are fewer products to choose from, be it chemical or biological, it might take more effort for growers to keep diseases at bay. Developing resilient plant and cultivation systems therefore remains key in this industry. 


According to the report’s findings, it is important to accelerate development and market introduction of alternative sustainable crop protection methods with low-risk ingredients. Greenhouse growers can also be encouraged and rewarded more for adopting new techniques to reduce the use and risk of plant production products. This can be done by helping them participate in study groups and in certification systems. At the same time, research is needed to investigate any bottlenecks that may occur when growers decide to apply more sustainable crop protection systems. Also, it is recommended to intensify the research into resilient cultivation systems, plant resilience and soil suppression of diseases.  

Prevention needs a boost 

Furthermore, prevention systems for disease and pest monitoring need a boost. Take, for instance, biological control of crops, precision spraying and monitoring technologies as well as cultural methods. National Authorisation boards are recommended to simplify procedures where possible for registration of biological control and (low-risk) plant protection products and to prevent delays in the registration of these products. 

It will help if legislators have the opportunity to allow growers to temporarily make use of products that have lost registration but are necessary to save a crop. This being under the condition that a grower reduces the impact on the environment, such as on surface water. Furthermore, advanced indicators measuring environmental impact can be applied, such as the Environmental Indicator Crop Protection, which helps growers to reduce the impact on the environment and simultaneously offers more options to greenhouse growers to intervene when necessary.