The project CO-FREE is working on innovative strategies for copper- free low-input and organic farming systems; funded by the European Commission, 7th Framework Programme). In CO- FREE, 11 scientific institutions plus 9 small and medium enterprises are working together over a period of 54 months. The CO-FREE project aims to develop innovative methods, tools and concepts for the replacement of copper in European organic and low input fruit, grapevine, potato, and tomato production systems. The component strategies include (i) development of alternative compounds, (ii) ‘smart’ application tools and (iii) by integrating these tools into traditional and novel copper-free crop production systems. CO-FREE also developed strategies to foster consumer acceptance of novel disease-resistant cultivars by consumers and retailers and assesses the economic and ecological impact of the developed tools.
Work is after 48 months still in progress. A range of alternative products (botanicals and biocontrol agents) was developed and explored in grapevine, apple, potato and tomato cropping systems showing promising results. Decision support systems were developed for grapevine and potato crops in order to better target fungicide sprays and to reduce copper use. Use of robust varieties is one of the key strategies for copper reduction, especially in potato production. We explored strategies to fostering acceptance for novel varieties by consumers in order to overcome one of the most important hurdles for broad adoption. First results are now available from CO-FREE’s evaluation of ‘apple production systems that explore the potential of advanced eco-orchard and agroforestry production systems, showing the potential and limits of these approaches.