CEPE - Reduction of pest control impact of horticulture on ground and surface water through a system of constant crop monitoring, early diagnoses, prevention and early treatment
The project aimed to introduce an alternative to current pesticide practices in horticulture by focussing on early detection of diseases as well as an early solution through combining existing techniques and knowledge. In order to establish the level at which micro-organisms (MO) - that cause the most common diseases in crops - become harmful, diagnostic tests were carried out. The project used existing DNA techniques to identify the 10 most common diseases in samples of plants’ roots and the water in which they grow. By doing this on a regular basis, it was anticipated that disease can be avoided or cured at an early stage, preventing massive use of pesticides. A database/software tool (dubbed CEPE - Constant Early Prevention Early) was created to provide quick diagnoses and advice to growers. Use of this tool was envisioned to enable the prevention and/or cure of diseases at an early stage. During the full-scale demonstration of the CEPE tool, advice was given to growers in the Netherlands during the growing season on the early treatment of disease for four different crops (tomato, sweet pepper, cucumber, and rose).
Although the target number of chemical samples was collected, the monitoring of chemicals in the plant effluent has not yet been proven to be an effective method to monitor the presence of pesticides in the growing system. Further research is needed to develop a more suitable way to monitor effectively pesticide concentration in the growing seasons. Although the project has not been able to quantitatively prove that chemical/pesticide use has decreased through the CEPE tool, growers have indicated that the CEPE tool's disease diagnosis does contribute to a weighted decision in monitoring crop health.