Modelling the path to better soil-applied pesticides

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems


Many pesticides are soil applied, including residual herbicides, soil insecticides and seed treatments incorporating fungicides and/or insecticides. They are under intense regulatory pressure with regard to water contamination, and continue to be lost from the market as a result. Simulation models are the primary basis for regulating pesticides against EU ground- and surface-water protection standards. Since these models are one-dimensional, they cannot explicitly represent plants or their roots, or the effects of formulations and formulation placement strategies. Other models exist that represent individual components of the system is a more satisfactory way. This project will create a conceptual framework for representing local pesticide concentrations in the whole soil-plant system, and will use it to produce a spatially-competent simulation model, that integrates existing knowledge. Advanced formulations and placement strategies offer the prospect of reduced off-target movement. The new model will for the first time enable their environmental benefit to be quantified in a cost-effective way. This offers the prospect of being able to gain credit in the regulatory approval process for these technologies, offsetting the negative economic effects of evolving regulation. In combination with existing empirical approaches, the new model will also deliver quantitative understanding of pesticide efficacy in the soil-plant system, enabling the rational design of new active ingredients and formulations. In short, the project will enable efficacy and environmental protection to be optimised for soil-applied pesticidal products, aiding product invention and supporting regulatory approval.This project is well aligned to the competition scope. The results will enable the optimisation of efficacy and water protection at the product design stage, leading to more efficacious products that enhance crop productivity and reduce environmental impact. The project also creates a way to demonstrate the environmental benefit of advanced formulation technology and product placement strategies, and offers the prospect of gaining credit for these in the EU regulatory review process for pesticides, in which great weight is placed on pesticide fate models. Formulations and placement strategies that significantly reduce water contamination would also fit naturally into regulatory mitigation strategies, and risk management schemes at the field and watershed level.


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Eshel, Amram; Beeckman, Tom (2013) Plant Roots: The Hidden Half

Description The project's goals were to produce a new model of pesticide fate that incorporated realistic plant development and spatial aspects of chemical movement in soil that would allow the potential of new technologies - such as designed release from seed treatment - to be evaluated without having to perform expensive field tests. The project also sought to promote to a wider scientific and regulatory audience in order that it may be considered as a future model used in pesticide regulation.

The project has delivered the model that has been parameterised to simulate spring/winter wheat growth and maize growth under European conditions. The model has already been used to evaluate different seed release characteristics and elucidate findings from field trials. Presentations at several international scientific conferences has publicised the model, although it is too early to get the model established in the regulatory framework for pesticides.

The major impact of the project has been the adoption of the model as a means for rational design of pesticide release technology within Syngenta. In summary therefore the project goals have been achieved and exceeded in the extent to which the model has been adopted by Syngenta and has already had a financial impact.
Exploitation Route Syngenta have appointed a scientist to continue this work on this area in the UK
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description This project has developed the basis of a new approach to measuring soil physical conditions in the root zone of crops. We have demonstrated this this project at public events to help the general public understand the research work at Rothamsted and the Open University.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal,Economic