Is it possible to cultivate crops without outside intervention? No, it’s not. But it is possible to design a cultivation system that is largely able to contain diseases and pests on its own. These are resilient cultivation systems, in which the natural enemies of diseases and pests play a major role. They largely dispense with the need for chemical crop protection.
In resilient cultivation systems, useful micro and macro-organisms are present right at the start of the crop’s life cycle. These organisms step in to do their work at the first sign of a pest or disease. If the crop is still in danger of being damaged, the grower can use a specific biological crop protector.
A smart cultivation environment like this is only possible if we fully understand every facet of the system: of the diseases and pests themselves, of their natural enemies and of the way the plants respond to these organisms. It is also important to have knowledge of what goes on in every tier of the system. We must be clear about how the organisms react to each other and how they function, as well as understand their genetic make-up.
This entire area is one of the research fields at Wageningen University & Research. The researchers study all the organisms in the system, from micro-organisms such as fungi and bacteria, to macro-organisms such as predatory mites and parasitoid wasps.