STomP - Sustainable Tomato Production: plant defense enhancement, development of new biopesticides and optimization of environmental, water and chemical inputs
Lucia Zappalà, Dipartimento di Agricoltura, Alimentazione e Ambiente, University of Catania, Italy
IPM, Insecticide resistance, Botanicals, Plant defense, Greenhouse
Tomato has a very high social and economical relevance in Europe and the whole Mediterranean area. The manifestation of new tomato diseases and invasive pest is promoted by climate change and globalized trade. Consequently, several key insect pests (e.g.Tuta absoluta, and the whiteflies) and fungal diseases (e.g. Fusarium spp., Phytophtora infestans, Alternaria spp., Oidium lycopersici) affect the tomato industry in the Mediterranean. Both arthropod pest and disease control often relies on agrochemicals which can disrupt the existing integrated pest management programs (IPM). In addition, recurring use of insecticides can be counterproductive due to resistance phenomena on targeted pests, production cost increases and to significant risks for farmers, consumers and other non-target organisms.
This project aims at developing and implementing environmental friendly methods for the management of tomato key pests and pathogens, limiting the use of chemicals and improving integrated control techniques. Specific topics of interest will include: (i) characterization of insecticide resistance of two invasive tomato pests (T. absoluta and B. tabaci) in populations coming from various Mediterranean countries; this will deal with current, potential and cross-resistance to insecticides currently used in the tomato crop. (ii) Potential for including vegetal extracts, known for their medical properties and widely diffused in the Mediterranean basin, in tomato IPM schemes, and development of new carriers and formulations for increased pest control efficacy and minimized phytotoxicity and non-target toxicity. (iii) Application of beneficial fungi and microbial consortia to enhance the defense barriers of tomato plants against biotic (pests and pathogens) and abiotic (reduced water) stress agents. (iv) Effects of different irrigation and fertilization levels on plant physiology, either in terms of nutritional value or chemical defenses, and their consequences on the two trophic levels of herbivorous and insect natural enemies. (v) Evaluation of a newly designed insect-proof ventilated greenhouse model in terms of tomato yields, pest and natural enemies population dynamics.
The research consortium aims at translating the obtained scientific results in new sustainable tomato cropping strategies. A significant increase of the cropping system suitability is expected through the reduction of chemical and water inputs, and the intensification of the role of natural resources, such as arthropod natural enemies, microbials and vegetal extracts. The visibility of the project will rely on a specific communication and dissemination plan, which will be implemented for the whole project duration. Special attention will be paid to the dissemination of the scientific and technological achievement of the project through web site, publications in technical and high impact journals, and meetings with stakeholders.