The overall objective of this project is to provide new understanding, through a novel combination of social and natural science skills, of the environmental and regulatory sustainability of deploying microbial biopesticides as alternatives to chemical pesticides for crop protection. This will be addressed by exploring the regulation and use of entomopathogenic fungi as inundative bio-insecticides for the control of aphids in leafy salad crops, a system of which the consortium has considerable expertise. The project will deliver improved knowledge of key natural and social science factors affecting the deployment of microbial biopesticides. The project will also facilitate dialogue between principal actors in the pesticide regulation system. When completed, the project will progress sustainability goals for the UK rural economy across the whole of the food chain.
Leafy salad crops are a very relevant model system because they are sold fresh and are frequently processed as ready to eat, but at the same time they receive relatively large numbers of chemical insecticide sprays, particularly against aphid species. Retailers demand produce that is free of aphids at the point of sale and in some instances are introducing protocols on insecticide use that are more restrictive than formal regulations, including the demand for residue free crops.
This project comprises a series of four linked objectives that bring together the skills of both social and natural scientists to address the overall objective.