Strategic Impact

The introduction and widespread adoption of integrated IPM solutions, like OPTIMA, will profoundly improve the management of agricultural processes and pave the way for the development of a sustainable and more efficient crop production system. 

OPTIMA will:

  1. deliver an enhanced IPM system for effective pest management in the field and empower European farmers with an integrated technological solution.
  2. assist farmers to deliver safe, high-quality food, while minimizing the impact on natural resources (by reducing chemical contamination), mitigating climate change (by reducing fossil fuel consumption) and contributing to public health (by minimizing PPP residues on fruit and vegetables and by promoting safe working conditions for farmers). 
  3. disrupt the current farming market and accelerate the adoption of bio-PPP based IPM systems by European farmers in connection with smart and precise application in the field– if broadly adopted by the farming sector.
  4. bring a paradigm shift to progress beyond the conventional approach in crop protection, which has limited use of bio-PPPs and smart spraying applications.

OPTIMA will contribute to the expected impacts as addressed by the Work Programme. The impact will be monitored and measured based on specific quantitative and/or qualitative indicators, as part of the project success monitoring plan

Expected Impacts

Reduce reliance on plant protection products

The overall reliance on PPPs will significantly decrease if fungal diseases are controlled in the most efficient way by spot-on and variable rate application of PPPs. OPTIMA aims to achieve this by improving each of the four IPM stages (prediction, detection, selection and application) for providing a stage by stage decrease in PPP use. More specifically, OPTIMA will:

  1. improve disease prediction for reducing reliance in PPPs due to incorporation of prediction models into the developed DSS that can improve disease suppression and lead to the use of smaller quantities of active ingredients;
  2. develop a disease detection system based on image analysis algorithms, multispectral cameras and sensors for assessing the infection level that achieve high efficiency, precise application with the minimum use of PPPs;
  3. select the best combination of bio- and synthetic fungicides, as their joint application lead to very efficient control of diseases, leading to decrease in reliance on chemical substances for pest control;
  4. develop smart and precise sprayers with sensors that estimate crop parameters (e.g. leaf area index and crop vigour), pulse width modulation (PWM) nozzles for accurate flow rate control and air assistance to reduce spray drift.

Introduce novel products with increased specificity and improved environmental performance (e.g. reduced effects on non-target organisms and natural resources)

OPTIMA will develop new resilient disease management strategies with improved environmental performance by using advanced methods for early disease detection, combined with synthetic and biological PPPs selection and application using innovative spraying technologies. More specifically, OPTIMA will:

  1. use crop disease prediction models incorporated into a DSS in order to support better crop protection planning by utilizing improved weather and crop specific parameters for providing more reliable forecast and by adding a mobile App for users’ testimonies and feedback to advance the accuracy of the prediction;
  2. introduce novel PPP mixtures by testing and evaluating new bio-components in combination with synthetic PPPs to maintain effective fungal control with reduced effect on the environment and human beings, based on a better comprehension of the plant defense mechanisms activated by developing the qPFD technology;
  3. optimize the spray distribution into the crop canopy and minimize spray drift with direct reduced environmental impact by developing smart and precision sprayers that apply variable rate of PPPs by altering the application dose through nozzles’ flow rate and air fan’s speed velocity control.

Decrease residue concentrations in fruit and vegetables

OPTIMA holistic approach for IPM management will eliminate/mitigate the “pesticide cocktail effect”, resulting in significantly reduced crop residue concentrations on fruits and vegetables. More specifically, OPTIMA will:

  1. reduce crop residues on fruit and vegetables through smart spray application techniques (precision spraying, remote disease detection, timely spraying applications, nozzle control) to avoid over-spraying of PPPs;
  2. use high efficiency mixtures of bio-PPPs (no harmful residues) with synthetic PPPs and adopt low PPP residue production systems into spray programs;
  3. introduce a novel combined disease prediction and detection system to lower application doses for controlling crop diseases and consequently to lower PPPs residues, due to early warming of disease dispersals.

Increase food safety and contribute to human health (consumers and applicators)

OPTIMA will assess human health, environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the existing crop protection systems in comparison to the proposed IPM systems in order to inform related stakeholders and the general public about the importance of a holistic IPM program for a residue-low or residue-free fruits and vegetable market. More specifically, OPTIMA will:

  1. conduct an extended LCA to identify opportunities to improve crop protection systems, showing how the proposed IPM strategies can contribute to reduce PPP residues in ecosystems, drinking water and the food chain;
  2. consider both human health and environmental components of Risk Assessment (HERA) at each OPTIMA demonstrator pilot to further develop guidance documents and the implementation of new HERA procedures at EU level; 
  3. compare the potential risk of both conventional and novel IPM strategy to assess how effective these mitigation measures are;
  4. support the development of IPM-related policies to enhance the level of IPM implementation in Europe, helping to respond to Directive 2009/128/EC.

Support innovations in the field of plant protection

OPTIMA cycle is a complete innovation as it combines precise monitoring of diseases, precise dose recommendations and precision spraying together with the combined use of bio-based and synthetic PPPs. More specifically, OPTIMA will:

  1. provide a new DSS together with a well-adjusted sprayers that can lead into important savings in crops;
  2. promote innovations in crop diseases prediction by developing more accurate algorithms;
  3. show in real life how novel bio-PPPs and application technologies can benefit farms of all sizes;
  4. develop three smart sprayers equipped with a new system for air assistance adjustment, sensor for canopy measurements to increase quality on spray coverage and reduce spray drift.