– We lose 8-40% of global plant production every year due to plant diseases and pests. Climate change with increasing temperature, changed precipitation patterns and extreme weather could lead to even greater losses. Therefore, efforts to protect our crops from pests become more important, says Björn Andersson, SLU's field pathologist with plant diseases in agriculture as a specialty.
Crop production is the vital basis for our food system, but the current set up is highly dependent on inputs of chemical pesticides and mineral fertilisers. EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy establishes that chemical pesticides should be reduced by 50 % and that at least 25 % of agricultural land should be organic farming by 2030. For this to become reality, we need extraordinary investments in research on new redesigned cropping systems, agricultural technology and life sciences. In addition, a joint action by scientists, industry, authorities and farmers is vital.
SLU raises awareness with two crop protection events
We live in times of geopolitical change and in a changing climate. Can we reduce the use of chemical pesticides and at the same time safeguard food security?
On May 12, SLU and the Swedish Board of Agriculture arrange a webinar in Swedish about plant health in agriculture, forestry and gardening.
– Researchers in the various fields will talk about where we are today and whether plant health in Sweden is sufficient for increased production. All participation takes place digitally and we welcome decision makers and others who need up-to-date information on plant protection, says Katja Fedrowitz, coordinator of the SLU Plant Protection Network and organizer of the seminar.
On May 24, SLU hosts an afternoon conference in Uppsala to discuss plant protection strategies with few or no chemical pesticides. The goal is to make agriculture more robust, resource efficient and environmentally friendly. The conference includes experts from all over Europe and is open to plant protection researchers and anyone else interested in this field. The focus will be on recent achievements, future solutions and ways forward. The discussions will feed into current developments related to crop protection and pesticide use within the European Union.
The conference will be in English. The event will be preceeded by a side event before lunch with speed talks and networking. The day after, on May 25, there is an opportunity to visit SLU’s long-term agricultural trials at Lövsta and to Linnaeus' Hammarby, the summer house of Carl Linnaeus.
– The EU's ambitious plans to reduce chemical pesticides pose great challenges, but also opens up exciting opportunities for productive, competitive and, sustainable food production – and that is what we will discuss, says Riccardo Bommarco, professor in agricultural entomology at SLU.
Sweden's strengths in plant protection work
Sweden needs to develop methods to increase food production in a sustainable way, without threatening the UN's environmental and health goals.
– Through the knowledge on plant protection issues at SLU, the Swedish Board of Agriculture and other organizations in the industry, we have a good chance of contributing knowledge to develop sustainable cropping systems systems and, by extension, healthy foods, says Anneli Lundkvist, collaboration specialist in crop cultivation.
– The current geopolitical and economic situation has shown the need for new strategies to increase domestic food production. In this, plant protection needs to be sustainable both economically, environmentally and socially, says Björn Andersson.
– Plant protection issues change over time, depending on, for example, production system and climate, and it is therefore important that there is stable funding for research and development, says Malin Hultberg, associate lecturer in horticulture at SLU.