Suppressive compost that can not only fertilize the soil, but also suppress fungal diseases of plants, has been being created by scientists of Kazan (Volga) Federal University in cooperation with the Finnish colleagues. The development will allow farmers to abandon the use of fungicides - a large class of pesticides that are widely used for crop protection for now.
Antifungal pesticides called fungicides are used in agriculture almost everywhere. They determine the stability of the cultures to the fungal diseases that can kill up to 90 percent of the crop. Different fungicides have varying degrees of toxicity, but all of these chemicals suppressing the fungal pathogens, adversely affect the soil and the plants. Scientists of Kazan (Volga) Federal University propose to replace the fungicides by absolutely harmless compost that will fertilize the soil and at the same time protect plants from fungi which kill them, with the help of biological mechanisms.
Compost in this case means soil conditioner consisting of some organic substrates or fertilizer in its most traditional sense.
"The composition may include compost manure, agricultural residues such as straw, bedding, organic fraction of municipal waste or sewage sludge. Selection of components depends on the area in which the compost will be produced, and the properties of the soil in the area. At the same time, the part which is responsible for the suppression of fungi - a certain micro-organisms - will be the same for all the suppressive composts - Pauline Galitskaya, Project Manager, Associate Professor of Landscape Ecology Department of Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences CFI, says. - We are working with organic waste now, specific for one of the areas of the Republic of Tatarstan, make up mixtures of them and get the compost. They look like ordinary organic fertilizers, but they have suppressive properties with respect to the agents of fungal diseases of plants. "
Potential properties of compost to suppress crop diseases have previously been described in the scientific literature, but there is no technology for producing such fertilizers so far. Kazan scientists working on this project together with colleagues from the University of Helsinki are likely to become pioneers.
"We have already conducted a screening of organic waste in the selected area, estimated their suppressive properties, identified a number of microorganisms that hinder the development of microscopic fungi. According to our idea, we can use these microbes as dietary supplements to compost that will provide them with fungicidal effect. This technology is already running under the laboratory conditions. We also consider another option: the possibility of obtaining the compost without dietary supplements. All the technology will be patented, "- Pauline Galitskaya says.
Participants of the project representing the CFI as well as industrial partner "Agro-Holding" plan to open a pilot production of suppressive composts for growing organic crops in 2016. If the company becomes successful, a large factory, which can provide all the Republic of Tatarstan with innovative fertilizer, will open in two years.
According to Pauline Galitskaya, transition to suppressive compost will allow to completely abandon the anti-fungal pesticides.
In addition, innovation promises the economic benefits. Farmers do not have to spend money to buy fungicides and to put it in the soil. They will fertilize the soil in the same way as always, they just will get the opportunity to use innovative compost offering useful suppressive properties instead of the traditional compost. At the same time the quality of cultivated land and crops will increase.
The authors call the technology a step towards the getting of organic products, which is aim of all developed countries today. We recall that legal framework governing the requirements for the production of such products and providing the initial state support for its producers has been being created in the Russian Federation.
However, the work on the bill, which is being lead by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, has been dragging on for a long time - more than a year. The first version of the document caused a storm of criticism, then the bill was seriously improved, and it was reported in November 2014 that the final version of the bill was ready. Its text has not yet been submitted for the open access, and it is not submitted to the State Duma of the Russian Federation. It may happen that promotion of this regulation will get accelerated becaus of the Russian embargo on European vegetables and fruits. Those Russian farmers advocating organic production, will finally get clear guidelines and incentives for the successful work.
The project "Technology to prevent soil contamination by pesticides through the use of suppressive composts" is supported by the Federal Target Program "Research and development in priority areas of scientific and technological complex of Russia for 2014-2020".