This innovative project aims to provide rules of conduct to control pests of horticultural crops. It pretends to check the presence and intensity of pest attacks and to assess the presence of biological control agents, in particular the indigenous species. This project also aims to evaluate the release of the control agents to better tailor protection strategies to be used for the conservation of local biodiversity and consequently to increase the production. This operation is of great importance due to the fact that inundative releases allow an immediate pest control but can also lead to increase the natural enemies populations which, if not strictly zoophag may constitute, themselves, as pests in need of intervention. This has been the case of mirids used to control whitefly and tomato leafminers, which this new process aims to improve. The genetic erosion made by inundative biological control may lead to less genetic diversity of native populations and, consequently, to decrease the capacity for survival of individuals. This study will be conducted with the species which have more expressiveness in the horticultural production in the “Oeste” and Alentejo regions: bumblebees, mirids and aphid parasitoids. These inundative biological control practices within a given ecological niche can lead to the extinction of populations of other species of the same niche which reduces the action potential of natural limitation. This operation will bring together several activities to define procedures before the acquisition of commercial biocontrol agents (choice of species and number of specimens necessary to each release) and after the release, assessing the effectiveness and need to perform other complementary tasks to control the pest in question. The establishment of the processes associated with the use of alternatives to pesticides is of particular interest in increasing the species competitiveness by improving the quality of the final product.
In order to achieve the main objective, the following actions for the design, dissemination and incorporation process will be implemented: i) Writing protocols for identification and quantification of pest populations and indigenous biocontrol agents; ii) Evaluating the consequences of the introduction of commercial agents; iii) Defining rules of action to control pests, with and without the release of biocontrol agents; iv) Meetings for reporting and sensitization; v) Designing teaching materials: demo videos and digital booklets in the available web communication platforms and thematic networks. The implementation of this project involves two tomato producers: Hortipor and Olhorta and the Institute of Agronomy (ISA), the College of Agriculture of Santarém (ESAS) and the Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon (FCUL).
Leader: Instituto Superior de Agronomia; Partner: Escola Superior Agrária de Santarém.