Monday 05

Pesticides: a blessing and a curse of civilisation

Posted by Techmania Science Center on 05 Oct 2015

'​The expert system for more accurate decisions on pesticide use' is the full name of the new software application that has recently been made available to Czech farmers. It is actually a smart assistant that helps with the use of artificial fertilizers. The application is a joint effort by two institutions – the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and the Crop Research Institute.

František Kocourek from the Crop Research Institute

Legitimate Regulation

Among other things, the application allows for determining the economic threshold of harmfulness for pesticides and the cost balance. It is able to predict yield losses due to 77 major diseases and pests of field crops. "For each crop, the authors provide an overview of pests along with a list of plant protection products, including the relevant dose per hectare," added Ruth Bízková, chairwoman of the above agency.

The system is convenient and inexpensive. "The user obtains – among other things – the value of the economic threshold of harmfulness, from which it is profitable to take measures against pests. Both the price and the dose per hectare are listed for each product," says Professor František Kocourek of the Prague-based Crop Research Institute to characterise the application.

Increased efforts to regulate pesticides are a result of the intensification of agriculture all over the world. Pesticides' harmful effects on humans and the entire bio-system are a known fact. While legislative measures and progress in research reduce the risks to food safety, the significance of pesticides increases in proportion to the ever-growing need for crop production. The negative effects of contaminants on soil and water are not reduced.

Pesticides are products designed to reduce and exterminate plant and animal pests, but their use is fraught with problems – from endangering the health of workers to contaminating drinking water to contributing to the decline in biodiversity (e.g. increased bee mortality).

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently added another five pesticides to the list of carcinogens. European Union rules to regulate pesticide use came into force in 2011. In 2013, the Czech action plan to reduce pesticides was announced.

Reducing Losses

"The team around František Kocourek came up with a radically new, yet surprisingly simple, functional and logical solution. Unnecessary or excessive use of pesticides leads to economic losses, thus reducing the farmer's yield and – in turn – profit," stressed Rut Bízková. It was therefore necessary to find a way to determine whether the use of pesticides is still effective, or whether it is ‘money down the drain'.

The Technology Agency of the Czech Republic provided CZK 2.9 million to support the project. The research team comprised researchers from the Crop Research Institute in collaboration with the Research Institute of Agricultural Engineering. Help was also provided by the company AG that now sells the application for CZK 4 800.

More information on The expert system for more accurate decisions on pesticide use (in Czech).

Petra Lesáková, František Kocourek and Leoš Kopecký (translated from the Czech journal Deník)

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