FRANCE – Will organic soon be ploughing its furrow in mango orchards? This is the challenge set for the Biophyto project, selected following the Casdar 2011 call for projects, which is starting up in Réunion. The aim is to grow mangoes without using insecticides. This is an ambitious target.
Bugs, inflorescence midges, scale insects and fruit flies… mangoes in Reunion come under attack from an army of harmful insects. The conventional reaction is to wipe them out using insecticides. However, now that conservation is key, other methods are being considered.
Fostering animal and plant biodiversity
The solution is to re-establish natural balances by fostering animal and plant biodiversity in crop plots. This is the aim of Biophyto, which suggests adopting an agro-ecological strategy to control insect pests. ” By abandoning insecticide treatments and introducing plant biodiversity, we can boost useful insect population levels and reduce those of harmful insects “, Jean-Philippe Deguine, an agro-ecologist at CIRAD who is leading the project, explains. “This will serve to regulate the agro-ecosystem “. There are several ways of introducing plant biodiversity. They include using cover crops, well-managed natural weed growth, trap plants, flowering hedges or borders, etc. ” In citrus orchards, for example in Spain, cover crops have been seen to boost the predator fauna of the soil “, Jean-Philippe Deguine adds. Other predators – ants, spiders, Staphylinus (or parasitoids) are also fostered by conservation biological control.
Target: zero insecticide by 2014
With a target of zero insecticide by 2014, the Biophyto project is a minor revolution. It was recognized at the end of 2010 by the Qualitropic competitiveness cluster and by the DévAB joint technology network (for the development of organic farming), and works through a dozen pilot sites in mango orchards. It also involves around ten technical partners, including CIRAD, as project leader* and through researchers and technicians from various research units. It fits in with the Ecophyto 2018 national plan, aimed at cutting pesticide use by half by 2018. In Réunion, Biophyto follows on from the Gamour project , which looked at the vegetable fly problem. It comprises four main operations, each headed by a partner. Armeflhor will be leading the development of new plant biodiversity management practices and CIRAD the characterization of functional animal biodiversity and measurement of the services rendered to bio-ecological equilibria. AROP-FL will be coordinating the economic analysis and a study of the added value for mango production, while the Chamber of Agriculture will be publicizing and disseminating the results of the project.
Towards healthier mangoes
The project partners will have three years to develop and assess new practices, characterize the biodiversity in non-treated orchards, measure the services rendered to bio-ecological equilibria, study how to promote the mangoes produced, and disseminate the results to the various beneficiaries. Healthier mangoes should soon be available: consumers take note!