Copper is currently used as a plant protection product (PPP) and/or leaf fertilizer in several European countries in organic as well as in conventional farming. European and national farmer-driven initiatives have – to some extent – promoted the development of copper reduction strategies for the most important crops: grapevine, fruit, vegetable and potato. These strategies typically consist of ‘smart’ combinations of alternative products such as acidified clay preparations, robust varieties and agricultural practices.
The RELACS project aims to develop new products and strategies to minimise use of copper in organic plant production. To achieve this, RELACS will:
- Create an overview of the current use of and need for copper in organic plant production: Recent detailed reports on copper use and minimisation practices are available from a few countries only. Therefore, a comprehensive overview on the current use of copper will be compiled. Best practices will be identified, allowing for rapid adoption and a realistic perspective for further reduction of copper use;
- Further develop alternatives to copper: Four pilot products which are far advanced and have proven activity under field/greenhouse conditions against the main target diseases in grapevine, apple, cucumber and tomato will be further developed;
- Develop strategies to reduce copper use: A range of low/zero copper strategies will be devised for the major crops and assessed in combination with other plant protection products used against other diseases and insects;
- Adapt copper reduction strategies and validate them on farm: The novel products and strategies developed will be discussed with the farmers and advisors in the project and will be adapted to local conditions. Trials will be conducted across Europe on organic certified farms and/or experimental/demonstration sites;
- Perform socio-economic and environmental impact assessments: The project will include a straight-forward economic assessment of the new strategies as compared to the farm standard (cost-benefit ratio). Efficacy of novel strategies will be a core component of the analysis.