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Achievements of science and gifts of nature - biotechnology in European orchards

Biotechnology is a field of science that combines biology, chemistry and genetic engineering. It uses technologies that make it possible to modify the properties of organisms, which contributes to improving their quality. In orchards, biotechnology is used primarily to breed fruit trees, which allow for obtaining varieties that are more resistant to diseases and pests, as well as produce higher quality fruit. In recent years, biotechnology has contributed to numerous achievements in orcharding, also in Europe, e.g. in biological plant protection.

Breeding of tolerant varieties

Thanks to the use of biotechnology, it is possible to breed tree varieties that are more resistant to pests and diseases, thus reducing the use of pesticides and other substances harmful to the environment. Plant resistance breeding is one of the elements of integrated pest management. Integrated pest management is one of the priorities in the European Union’s policy. The application of the principles of integrated pest management is the responsibility of all professional users of plant protection products in the EU. It involves protecting plants and the environment. It is a solution used when chemical protection is ineffective. Biotechnology also allows for the creation of tree varieties that are more resistant to low temperatures, frosts and droughts, which increases the productivity of orchards and reduces the risk of losses. Thanks to biotechnology, fruit tree growers can obtain more efficient crops, and thus increase income and reduce the negative impact of fruit production on the environment. In addition to plant breeding, biotechnology in orcharding is used, among others, in the production of plant protection products and fertilizers, as well as in the development of new technologies enabling more efficient use of water resources and optimization of the cultivation process.

Sea algae in orchards

In coastal regions, farmers have used sea algae to fertilize their fields for several hundred years, achieving higher yields of better quality. Research has been undertaken and it contributed to the creation of innovative products containing algae extracts. In modern laboratories dealing with sea biotechnology, the production of fertilizers containing algae filtrates has begun. New generation formulas enriched with components containing algae filtrates show much higher efficiency compared to traditional fertilisers. Crops stimulated with new generation formulas give yields higher by up to several percent, and the commercial quality compared to crops harvested from plantations cultivated with traditional agricultural methods is significantly higher.



Biological methods of plant protection

Biological methods of plant protection are one of the many fields the progress of which was previously determined by the development of traditional biotechnology, and currently by the development of molecular biology and genetic engineering. Advances in these fields are enormous, making recent forecasts in plant protection a reality. The integration of methods is largely based on chemical control, and this creates a huge demand for research and implementation in the field of biological methods of plant protection. A biological method can meet these expectations when, in addition to developing classic methods of introduction, it will make extensive use of molecular biology and genetic engineering methods that open up new perspectives. The dependencies of plant protection and biological methods on biotechnology are multithreaded and very extensive. Many integrated plant protection programs in orchards are based on the protection of local natural enemies or the use of selective pesticides. The solution to the problem may be the use of populations of predatory and parasitic arthropods resistant to chemical pesticides. Interest in this issue is very high. Natural selection methods, however, are labour-intensive and take a lot of time.

Allelopathy as an alternative method of weed control

The interaction between plants has been known and observed for centuries. It defines the interactions occurring in the following systems: plants-plants, plants-microorganisms and microorganisms-microorganisms. These are biochemical interactions that are both harmful and beneficial. Allelopathic compounds are products of the secondary metabolism of the donor plant, which, after being released into the environment, affect the neighbouring plants-acceptors. Allelopathic compounds accumulated in the soil come from cultivated plants, wild plants, weeds, and can also be metabolites of soil microorganisms. The increased use of synthetic herbicides in agriculture has resulted in an increase in the number of plants resistant to the applied protection measures. The acquisition of resistance to herbicides by weeds makes it necessary to look for other, environmentally-friendly ways to reduce and combat weed infestation. “Conventional” weed control methods based on allelopathy have been used in conservation agriculture for years. They involve the use of allelopathic plants as a source of natural plant protection products in the form of extracts. Along with the development of biotechnology, a new opportunity opens up to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of allelopathy used as an alternative method of plant protection.

Biotechnology is extremely important for protecting the environment. Thanks to it, it is possible to grow new and more effective varieties of fruit trees that provide more high-quality fruit. Along with the progress in science and technology, biotechnology is becoming more and more available to fruit tree growers, while being one of the most promising areas of agricultural development in Europe and in the world. However, it is worth remembering that biotechnology, like any field of science, has its limitations and requires responsible use and monitoring. It is also necessary to take measures to protect biodiversity and maintain the natural ecosystem in orchards and farmlands.