Under certain conditions and against some specific pests, i.e., mealybugs, aphids vectoring certain virus diseases, whiteflies, etc., mineral (paraffin) oil is occasionally used in Eastern European and Mediterranean countries. Agronomic practices and biocontrol, e.g., use of parasitic insects, can offer an alternative to mineral oils. However, there is a need to find better solutions in terms of selectivity and efficacy against specific insects, e.g., scales and mealybugs, in case of major outbreaks of high populations and against vectors of viruses.
The overall aim of the RELACS project is the development of alternatives to mineral oil and their integration in crop protection strategies. Therefore, RELACS will:
- Create an overview of the current use of and need for mineral oil in organic plant production: A survey will be carried out to quantify the use of mineral oil in organic citrus and greenhouse production in the Mediterranean countries. Existing alternative control strategies and current constraints will be reviewed;
- Develop alternatives to mineral oil comprising of two complimentary approaches: plant extracts and a physical control method;
- Develop strategies to reduce mineral oil use: a range of low/zero mineral oil strategies combining the new methods with agronomic practices, functional biodiversity and use of biological control will be devised;
- Adapt strategies and validate them on farm: The and strategies will be discussed with the farmers and advisors in the project and adapted to local conditions in each region of interest to be assessed on farm, i.e., in Southern Italy, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia;
- Perform socio-economic and environmental impact assessments: Studies will include a straightforward economic assessment of the new strategies as compared to the farm standard (cost-benefit ratio) and a market assessment. Efficacy of novel strategies will be a core component of the analysis.