The Spanish province of Almer?a has developed an intensive protected crop industry which is now the mainstay of the local economy, with the value of exports in the first semester of 2012 estimated at €1,410 million. Intensive horticulture takes place virtually all year round, with
tomato and pepper being the main crops, leading to high pest and disease pressures, which has seen intensive pesticide use until recently. There is pressure from the supply chain, consumers and EU legislation for a more sustainable crop production system using fewer pesticides and less water.
Despite pesticide residue monitoring schemes both locally and in the destination countries, cases of non-approved pesticides residues have occurred, the most critical of which was in peppers exported in the autumn of 2006 with residues of isofenphos-methyl, which is not approved in the EU.
This was reported in the EU rapid alert system, resulting in swift action by the horticultural industry in Almer?a, and steps taken to introduce Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Biological control is now widespread across the region with the release of natural enemies for key pests such as
tobacco whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) and western flower thrip (Frankliniella occidentalis). IPM continues to develop as new biopesticides become available across the EU and the pressure to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides continues.