Biological control and natural biomolecules

Study of the environmental impact of biopesticides and their influence on the soil chemico-physical characteristics in organic grapevine- and olive-growing farms.


From 2005 to 2007, soil samples were collected from organic vineyards and olive groves in Apulia at two depths (0-20 and 20-40 cm); analyses for the soil chemico-physical characterization were carried out. Concentrations of copper (total and available), sulphur and plant pesticides (azadirachtin, rotenone and pyrethrins) were determined and compared with the quantities used so as to collect further information on the fate of these biopesticides in different types of soil and bioclimatic contexts. Further analyses enabled to evaluate the residue of these biopesticides in olive samples under different management programmes in which each active ingredient is used in one, two or three applications, in oil samples from the above olives. The time of degradation of each active  ingredient was also studied. Other analyses allowed assessing copper residues in grapes and wine.

Starting: 1.12.2004
Scheduled ending: 30.10.2007
Real ending: 18.09.2019


The general objective was to study the medium-term environmental impact of copper, sulphur, and botanical pesticides (azadirachtin, rotenone and pyrethrins) in organic vineyards and olive groves of Apulia, in and the influence of soil properties, crops and pest management practices. Moreover, degradation kinetics and residual values of three plant biopesticides were investigated along with the fate of copper in olives and oil, in the grapes and wine. 



Copper, sulphur and plant pesticides (rotenone, azadirachtin and pyrethrins) are the main substances for the management of grapevine and olive pests on the organic farms both in Puglia and in the Mediterranean basin. Little is known about their fate in the Apulian soils and their impact on the soil fauna and flora which determine the biological activity of the soil-plant system. Information from these trials help improving the modes of application and the efficacy of these biopesticides in the control of the olive fly, of the grapevine downy mildew and ensuring the healthiness of organics. 


Copper- and sulphur-based products as well as pesticides of plant origin (pyrethrins, rotenone and azadirachtin) are the most common biopesticides used by organic farms in Apulia. Grapevine and olive trees are the most typical Mediterranean crops grown in Apulia. The results of this research are interesting not only for organic agriculture in Apulia and in Italy but also for the possibility of their dissemination throughout the Mediterranean basin.


    • Strengths

This is the first study both for copper and sulphur carried out in Apulia on organic farms. It is therefore the first step towards a correlation between the use of copper for the phytosanitary management of olive and grapevine and the evolution of its concentrations in the soil. This correlation might ease inspections by inspection bodies which shall check the compliance with the binding regulations.

    • Weaknesses

The micro-climatic conditions of farms were disregarded; neither were the strategies for the management of soil fertility which has a deep impact on the sulphur content in the soil. Further studies are needed for a better understanding of the bio-geo-chemical cycle of sulphur and the copper fate in the organic vineyards and olive groves. 

Reference person/s: Simeone Vito /
Collaborators: Baser Nuray / Cesari Gianluigi / El Bilali Hamid / Mondelli Donato /
Institutions involved:
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