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Italy: fight against the red spider mite

13/11/2020 - Press release , François-Xavier Branthôme - Lire en français
First results of the GOI I.D.RA: focus groups, guidelines and training for farmers
The Operational Group of Innovation for Plant-Health Protection against the Red Spider Mite (GOI I.D.RA.) recently presented the first major measures instituted as part of a sustainable and effective strategy to fight against the presence of the red spider mite, which threatens the production of processing tomatoes, particularly in the region of Piacenza (which recorded about 10,000 hectares of tomato crops during the 2020 season). 
This project was launched a year ago, and features experimental field-tests, a practical guide and training for farmers, thanks to the collection and analysis of data samples provided by some one hundred farms. The progression of this program was due to be the focus of a conference in October, organized by the Terrepadane Agricultural Consortium and the OI Pomodoro da Industria of northern Italy, but it had to be canceled due to anti-Covid measures. 
The I.D.RA project was set up in October 2019 with the aim of improving plant-health protection against spider mites. 
It is a 30-month experimental project, due to end in March 2022, which has been granted funding of EUR 180,000 (out of a total budget of EUR 250,000) from the Emilia-Romagna Region within the framework of the Rural Development Plan.
Work progress
Despite the constraints linked to the Covid-19 crisis, which are particularly difficult in the province of Piacenza and have forced the temporary postponement of a number of activities, the GOI program is being pursued according to agreed objectives.
In collaboration with the AINPO, ASIPO and POA producers' organizations, the Pomodoro Nord IO coordinated the distribution in approximately one hundred farms in the region of Piacenza and Parma of data collection sheets, intended to identify the factors that make crops vulnerable to infestations of the red spider mite. The farms concerned by the survey are located in the different areas that have been identified as presenting a "spider-mite risk" and the data collected is being processed by the University. Furthermore, the IO is disseminating the information collected in an innovative way: it has developed a communication strategy based on the characteristics of the sector, by leading discussion groups with a variety of partners in order to focus on the messages that must be passed on to the various recipients. In this way, not only is technical information being collected, but operators are also gathering information that is useful in understanding the dynamics that positively influence the measures being used in to fight against the mite.
A preliminary version of the "Guidelines" was drawn up by the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Piacenza with the aim of helping farmers implement procedures aimed at preventing or controlling, as far as possible, the problem of red spider mites in the crops. These guidelines will be fine-tuned during the project, in permanent consultation with the Plant-Heath Consortium, and in full compliance with integrated production rules.
Field trials were carried out on four partner farms, in order to compare the results obtained "outside the project" and those obtained by applying the Directives. This work has made it possible to carry out an initial sampling program to characterize the populations of mites present (phytophagous and predators). About thirty samples of mite populations have been collected in this way, which will be analyzed in the coming months. To date (early November), about half of the activities planned for the evaluation of resistance (and their implications for plant-health protection) have also been carried out, during which the direct action of substances and the effects of several combinations have been verified, in strict compliance with the conditions of usage stipulated, where applicable, within the context of integrated production rules for the different products.
Finally, training resources are being launched, involving around forty farms, with a course that will provide information relating to the resistance of spider mites to various plant protection substances and to strategies for managing and combating these spider mites. The aim is to help participants develop specific skills, which will allow them to rationally set up a plant-health defense process, with concrete results in the fight against spider mites.
Speaking about the solutions provided by this project for the whole sector, Tiberio Rabboni of the IO declared: "By joining the GOI and co-financing the project, the Pomodoro Nord IO is contributing the experience of the entire processing tomato sector to the search of new solutions for the fight against the red spider-mite, whose presence threatens the quantities and the quality of our crops. As far back as 2018, we started collaborating in the drafting and distribution of an early technical vademecum and, in 2019, we co-financed experiments in the biological control of the mite in question, with results that are currently being monitored. In this IDRA project, the IO acts as a link between the different parties involved and disseminates the results of experiments to all stakeholders of the sector, in an innovative and scientifically based approach to the sustainable defense of processing tomatoes."
Source: Pomodoro Nord IO
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