Multiannual crops such as fruit tree crops are affected by soil sickness or yield decline. “Replant disease” is the main biological component of this problem due to the eco-functional intensification of growing areas specialising in fruit production. The severity of this etiology is mediated by plant vigour, physiological state of plants and a-biotic factors, therefore its occurrence is actually an indicator for fruit growers of the degraded status of soil’s biological processes on his crops.
The project aims to develop innovative management options able to increase soil biological functioning, focusing the attention on soil suppressiveness: the natural ability of soil to control soilborne pathogenic agents of replant disease. The activities are planned on two target crops: citrus and apple, representing two main agro-environments of Europe. Cover crops taken from local germoplasm collections or from the natural vegetative covers and recycled high quality organic materials are the natural resources upon which the project focuses, in order to develop innovative cropping practices which will enable soil biodiversity preservation and exploit its biological features.
The early evaluation of plant response and the use of advanced methodologies to evaluate microbial response toward the inputs are the strategies used to identify natural resources and techniques capable of increasing microbial biomass and diversity and selectively affecting beneficial and pathogenic microbial populations. The resulting innovative cropping practices are also easily transferred to other crops such as stone fruits and strawberries. Each country’s activities are planned in close cooperation with regional agricultural research centres working on organic farming and laboratories with specific expertise. The dissemination plan of the BIO-INCROP project should increase grower’s awareness of soil biodiversity as a resource for developing new technologies.