20 minutes – pesticide reduction promises fast success

The two initiatives, which come one year before the population, would upset agriculture: the Drinking Water Initiative wants to grant farmers only direct payments that do not use pesticides. The initiative "For a Switzerland without synthetic pesticides" even calls for the ban of synthetic pesticides. Scientists from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) have used the pesticide theme to find solutions.


Is agriculture without pesticides?

Scientists are coming to the conclusion that it is possible to quickly reduce pesticide contamination, as FiBL wrote in a press release issued on Tuesday. The research institute concludes:

The substeps can be implemented immediately. Practice and research in organic agriculture show that herbicides can be completely replaced by advanced equipment, mixed crops and soil cover. Scientists believe that a "Swiss agriculture without herbicides" is an interesting vision of the practice, its unique position in the market and its agricultural policy.

Preventive phytosanitary protection is not feasible without the effects of rotations of multi-faceted crops (no monocultures), mixed crops, fallow deer and hedgerows, flowerbeds or residual non-profit weeds. FiBL is calling for simple pesticide alternatives. Farmers, plant advocates, crop technicians, ecologists, researchers and consultants are only part of the networked solution.

New varieties need time and money. This also applies to improvement projects such as improved apple tolerance to apple diseases or tolerance of cotton to root borer and sucking insects implemented by FiBL in India. In this case, a breeding is applied with the participation of all. These projects are leading the way, but need more support and imitators around the world.

For the past 30 years, FiBL and Agroscope have been studying the direct protection of crops without synthetic pesticides. The research institute believes that the number of possible solutions is enormous. These include the use of antagonists such as insects, viruses and nematodes. Another option is to use plant extracts or natural materials such as clay minerals and milk extracts. As it is extremely expensive to develop these solutions as standardized crop protection products, FiBL calls for public and private investment in research.

According to scientists, Switzerland would be predestined to take first place. Scientists see as proof of potential identified applications for approval of new active substances: half of the applications for approval of new drugs in the European Union are now considered as biological pesticides.