Main research needs in organic pome fruit growing: results from participatory research survey.
BIOFRUITNET project partners evaluated the main obstacles to the organic fruit growing systems across Europe. Pest and disease control were identified the most limiting production factors. Further research for organic pome fruits should focus on the enhancement of the cropping system resilience. This involves the minimisation of the use of copper compounds but also of other plant protection products (PPPs), the enhancement of functional biodiversity, breeding and introduction of new varieties and rootstocks with high fruit quality, tolerant to diseases, pests and abiotic stresses, not requiring labour intensive cultivation practices (e.g. intensive thinning) and new variety concepts for their marketing including the whole production chain. An important research gap related to sustainable strategies to deal with invasive, newly emerging and locally important pests and diseases, which usually occour first in organic orchards. The development of new selective PPPs suitable for organic fruit growing and the continuous availability of the traditional products emerged as a crucial strategy to support a growing organic fruit production sector. The challenge would thus be to also find new pathways for the registration of PPPs based on naturally occurring substances.