WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE?
Large quantities of chemicals in the form of fertilizers and pesticides are used annually in agriculture, forestry and horticulture. The inevitable leakage of these chemicals leads to contamination of both ground and surface water. The consequences of the use of the various can often be seen through high nutrient levels in waterways and accumulation of pesticides in animals towards the top of the food chain. The ability of plants to use the nutrients available and to withstand infection by various detrimental fungi restrict the range available for various crops. Improvement in nutrient availability and control of fungal pests through chemical treatment has increased the range of many crops. Bacteria being developed within the MASE program may allow for a reduction in chemical use through improved nutrient uptake and biological control of the fungi.
HOW CAN THE PROGRAMME CONTRIBUTE TO A SOLUTION?
The research program will develop microorganisms with varying activities. Naturally occurring bacteria retrieved from the roots of healthy plants have been shown to exhibit effects such as growth stimulation together with improved uptake of nutrients and better resistance to detrimental fungi. Improved uptake of nutrients will lead to lower levels of leakage which will in turn lead to lower agricultural impact on the environment. The program will also develop bacteria with proven activity against detrimental fungi in a range of crops. Full scale application of the products under development will lead to reduced application of pesticides giving produce with lower levels of residual contaminants. The use of bacteria for growth stimulation and for limiting the spread of fungal infections will lead to a the development of less wasteful agriculture with a reduced environmental impact.
WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE RESULTS?
The following groups will gain most from the results produced by the program:
- Consumers and food industry partners with an interest in developing produce derived through the application of sustainable agricultural methods.
- Producers of farm, greenhouse and garden products interested in the replacement of agrochemicals with environmentally friendly methods.
- Eco-farmers who are entirely dependent on non-chemical methods for growth promotion, disease control and plant protection.
- Biotech companies interested in using the research results for the development of environmentally friendly products for limitation of fungal growth which would otherwise cause large financial losses in agriculture and the food industry.
- Pharmaceutical companies who could use the results gained as a starting point in the development of new and improved medicines.
- Centralised and local authorities responsible for the environment, agriculture and health and safety issues concerning food.
- Researchers from all parts of the world working in this and related disciplines.