In the framework of preparing Horizon Europe and to bring a common scientific perspective to the pivotal question of pesticide use in agriculture, INRA together with the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) and the Julius Kühn-Institut German Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (JKI) have elaborated a scoping paper. This document is intended to be the cornerstone for future discussions on this topic. To set the wheel in motion, a workshop on the scientific priority "Towards Chemical Pesticide-free Agriculture" was organised at INRA's headquarters in Paris on 5 October 2018.
This event brought together 50 participants from nearly 10 European organisations. It aimed to:
- Build a scientific community by associating several European research institutes to this dynamic, including research groups already involved in several key FP7 and H2020 projects, such as AgriLink, DiverIMPACTS, EMPHASIS, POnTE, BINGO
- Set the scene, by consolidating the current view, identifying the research and innovation gaps and linking them with the relevant research designs
- Establish a modus operandi for the coming months/years (sharing tasks, gathering regularly for meetings, organising workshops, etc.)
Consensus on forefront science to focus on:
Participants first acknowledged that the ambition of this initiative was very bold and highly challenging, but at the same time equally important. All agreed that such a transversal scientific question could only be answered through a holistic response brought by a concerted European effort.
Through working group discussions, participants identified forefront science to focus on and associated scientific issues to address with a transdisciplinary approach, such as:
- Reliable high throughput phenotyping systems for known and upcoming diseases
- Mathematics and statistics on epidemiology and pest dispersal, use data from survey and citizen science; model based risk assessment; spatial arrangements
- Interactions with market and consumer behaviour: future agrifood system vision
In order to obtain actionable results in a clear and reasonable timeframe, all agreed that there was a need to:
- Set boundaries so that the research efforts could remain sufficiently focused
- Establish a roadmap for change clarifying the ambition and associating timeline and short-, mid- and long-term objectives
- Involve relevant additional actors/stakeholders/expertise to achieve these objectives.
Way forward to obtain actionable results
The process to accomplish these goals was also discussed and agreed on:
- Within the next 6 months, sub-groups will elaborate scoping papers on the 4 selected topics, i.e. Biocontrol, Insects and Microbiome; Genetics and New Species for New Services; Technology, Modelling and Agro-equipment; Agri-food System Transition and Societal adoption; and an extra one on Economy and Trade
- Representative from each member state will elaborate a 2-page synthesis summarizing the relevant on-going research and including the societal context surrounding this question
- Reconvene for a second workshop to be organized late spring in Germany.