Good news for the planet! A team of researchers from Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech at the University of Liège has developed bioherbicides based on essential oils. A natural alternative to chemical plant protection products, including the very controversial glyphosate still widely used by Moroccan farmers. Even if it will undoubtedly be necessary to wait until 2023 for their sale, it is a major step forward for agriculture and environmental protection.
Three essential oils were selected after having been tested successfully on several cultures. The “weeds” do not resist them. They die 16 hours after applying the product. However, it is advisable to apply it twice to avoid regrowth. Unlike glyphosate, which is a total herbicide, it is thus possible, thanks to essential oils, to develop so-called specific herbicides which only attack very specific plant species.
There are currently only two bioherbicides: one based on pelargonic acid (an extract of geranium), the other based on acetic acid derived from vinegar. This discovery therefore opens up new perspectives for the agricultural world, but not only. “Our goal is to develop these herbicides for farmers but also for individuals. The idea is to use these products as we did with Roundup to eliminate weeds in gravel, walkways or even lawns, ”explains Simon Dal Maso, researcher at Gembloux.
On the farmers’ side, we are quite enthusiastic about this innovation made in Wallonia, but obviously the question of price is raised when we know the cost of essential oils. “The essential oil is relatively expensive, but we have developed a biological substance with highly diluted oil with still active properties. The final cost is now low and will make it possible to be competitive with glyphosate, ”explains Haïssam Jijakli, professor of phytopathology and urban agriculture at the Faculty of Gembloux of the University of Liège.
Laboratory research began more than 10 years ago, long before the controversies surrounding glyphosate broke out and it will take almost two more years to be able to commercialize these new herbicides. They must first be approved at European level by passing toxicity tests (do not harm humans) and ecotoxicity (do not harm the environment), which does not harm the environment. shouldn’t be a problem. These essential oils are already used in the medical sector. There is no fear as to possible contamination of these products to flora and fauna, reassure scientists.
The Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech team has already received a grant from the Walloon Region to create a spin-off.
Leading the way in urban agriculture
WASABI: This Walloon platform for innovative systems in agriculture and urban biodiversity is a unique structure in Europe. This space of more than 5 hectares installed on the Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech campus, will familiarize citizens with new forms of urban and peri-urban agriculture and make them aware of plant biodiversity. This educational tool at the cutting edge of eco-innovation was launched on September 23.
Agriculture today faces major challenges, both in terms of health and protection of the planet. This green platform therefore intends on its own scale to provide an eco-innovative and concrete response to issues at the crossroads of the economy, ecology and social issues.
For almost 8 years, bioengineering students and landscape architects from Gembloux Agro-Bio Techs have been fully engaged in the design and construction of this platform with the support of the Green SURF spin-off.
Intended for the moment for researchers, this research space will soon be supplemented by a community garden and a didactic path which will form a so-called “social” zone, where the general public will be able to familiarize themselves with good practices and other cultivation techniques. sustainable.