Optimize plant disease prediction models and develop advanced early disease detection methods.

Prediction and monitoring disease models for downy mildew in vineyards, apple scab in apple orchards and Alternaria leaf blight in carrots will be optimized. The prediction models will be based on agro-climatic, biological algorithms and users’ testimonies into a state-of-the-art DSS to determine the risk of disease outbreak. Advanced monitoring systems using spectral imaging combined with pattern recognition techniques based on the most recent advanced deep learning algorithms will be developed to precisely localise and quantify the infection, so that appropriate plant protection product type, dose, timing and location will be recommended.

Evaluate and screen biological and synthetic PPPs and assess plant and pathogen resistance mechanisms for successful disease control.

OPTIMA will evaluate under field conditions a collection of 10 categories per host of commercial and novel bio-PPPs from the collections of OPTIMA partners. These collections consist of isolates of the plant microbiome (bacteria, yeasts, filamentous fungi, endophytes), botanical extracts, biostimulants and resistance inducers. They will be evaluated for their ability to control the selected diseases in the three crops; and the optimum dosage/volume, working parameters and application timing, in combination with plant genotype will be assessed.

Additionally, synthetic PPPs from different chemical groups registered for each disease and host or being in the registration process by the PPP production companies will be used for defining the efficiency of combining multiple PPPs and to identify the optimal scheme leading to the highest disease control with the lowest chemical residues. Induced host resistance mechanisms of the selected diseases will be identified and characterized using transcriptomics and metabolomics approaches allowing the combination of induced and constitutive resistance factors in future breeding programs for higher and more durable resistance.

Enhance and develop innovative precision spraying technologies.

Three prototype sprayers (for carrots, apple orchards and vineyards) will be developed including smart technologies for a variable rate control based on canopy characteristics, pathogen dispersal and disease expansion provided by the developed detection system; and optimal selection of the most suitable working parameters (pressure, air flow rate, nozzle type and size, forward speed, etc.) will be implemented based on meteorological data, canopy density and structure, and potential risk of contamination, for example of surface waters or neighbouring houses.

OPTIMA will assess spray characteristics from different spray nozzles with and without air support to select optimal nozzle/pressure combinations for the selected crops and diseases. Dose of PPPs and the corresponding applied volume rate will be adjusted according to the canopy structure, generating common and objective dose expression criteria for the selected crops. Innovative technologies to restrain spray drift will be developed and evaluated under laboratory and field conditions. Potential drift reduction will be evaluated in combination with bio-efficacy and crop deposition analysis.

Test and evaluate the proposed new IPM elements under field conditions.

The proposed holistic IPM system will be evaluated from end-users (farmers, advisors, cooperative’s technicians) in a series of sessions using a co-creation methodology to develop the optimal, practical and realistic solutions fully in line with end-users needs. The system will be tested in different commercial fields previously selected for the three crops in the three pilot countries (Italy, Spain and France) with the cooperation of the three farmers’ cooperatives partners.

The prediction and detection methods will be evaluated towards in-situ measurement, while a series of measurements will be piloted with the advanced sprayer prototypes to record field efficacy and potential discrepancies. The effect of conventional spraying process on biocides will be extensively tested and evaluated, while biological efficacy of the new developed tools will be tested under field conditions. Finally, drift reduction, coverage and canopy deposition will be systematically assessed.

Assess health, environmental and socioeconomic impacts and risks of the proposed IPM system.

OPTIMA will assess human health, environmental and socio-economic impacts and risks of PPP use for the selected diseases, comparing conventional systems with the proposed IPM approach. For achieving this, an extended Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach integrated with Human and Environmental Risk Assessment (HERA) and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) will be performed.

The trade-offs between the different sustainability dimensions will be assessed aiming at healthier and sustainable plant protection strategies.