“IPM provides a profitable way of growing food that is healthy both for the consumer and the environment”

Eduardo Crisol - COEXPHAL (Spain)

Eduardo Crisol is a hub coach within the IPMWORKS network.

Eduardo Crisol is an agroecologist at COEXPHAL, an association of fruit and vegetable growers. He works with greenhouse farmers in Almería and Granada, in the southeastern corner of Spain. As hub coach within the IPMWORKS network, he promotes IPM implementation in greenhouses, an agricultural sector that, as he proudly says, has proven that reducing pesticide use through IPM is possible, cost-effective, and healthy, both for the consumer and the environment.

During this interview, conducted in the course of the second IPMWORKS annual meeting, he shares his experience in conservation biological control to reduce the use of insecticides and improve sustainability in greenhouse crops.

What are the benefits of Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

IPM is a set of tools that farmers can use to substitute the use of chemical pesticides. Although it depends on the system that we are talking about, this set of tools offers a profitable way for farmers to produce healthy food for consumers, and also to protect the environment. This means that in an IPM system we achieve a reconciliation between nature and agriculture.

What is the level of adoption of IPM strategies on the farms you work with?

In Almería and Granada, we have approximately 32,000 hectares of greenhouses. Most of these greenhouses are family owned. They are small greenhouses and there is a high adoption rate of biocontrol, mainly natural enemies released in the greenhouse crops. But there are some crops where this adoption rate is low, and some pests also require a little optimization so that we can control them efficiently. This is what we want to focus our work on. We try to help farmers and advisors see the advantages of this biocontrol optimization using different techniques, different elements that they can integrate to provide better crop protection.

The IPMWORKS project uses a key element: the demo events. There you can see how the farmers interact with each other and share their knowledge. And to me, that is a beautiful way to disseminate information for the sustainability of the whole system.

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You are the coach of one of the 22 IPMWORKS hubs launched so far across Europe. Could you describe the group?

In our hub there are 12 farmers so far and six of them are organic. We have a range of different crops, mainly horticultural. Tomatoes, sweet pepper, zucchini, melon, watermelon… Among the farmers in the hub there is a high adoption rate of biocontrol and some want to make further improvements. For instance, using flower strips to promote biodiversity, or planting hedgerows, which is becoming very popular among farmers. These techniques boost the population of natural enemies and reduce the amount of pests in the crops.

The H2020 IPMWORKS project is at its mid-term. From your perspective, what are the major achievements accomplished so far?

I think that the IPMWORKS project uses a key element: the demo events. There you can see how the farmers interact with each other and share their knowledge. And to me, that is a beautiful way to disseminate information for the sustainability of the whole system. You can tell by going to one of these demos that there is a lot of ongoing communication between them; also, the feedback that we get from the farmers after the demos tells us that there is real interest from some of the participants to adopt some of these IPM techniques. So for me, that is a very solid achievement. Also, to be able to link up all the farmers and advisors at the local level with what’s going on in an European context. That’s another great achievement of the project.

How do you expect this project to be developing in the remaining two years?

My expectations on these two remaining years are to keep working on the major interests of the farmers and advisors at local level. And obviously to link that up with the interests of other partners and be able to bring some of the farmers and advisors from Spain to other countries through the cross visits and share experiences with other European partners.

You are taking part in the second IPMWORKS annual meeting, sharing experiences with other hub coaches. If you had to pick one message from these peer-to-peer exchanges, which one would you choose?

We have been discussing with other colleagues in different agricultural sectors and the message is very clear: IPM Works. This is happening in my own sector, the greenhouse sector, and I am very happy and very proud to share it. IPM helps to significantly reduce the amount of chemical pesticides, and it provides a profitable way of growing food that is healthy for the consumer and also healthy for the environment. So indeed, IPM works.