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Coordinated by University of Amsterdam (UvA) biologist Michel Haring, the Green Defence Against Pests, or GAP, programme is one of the five 'Perspective Programmes' receiving funding from the STW technology foundation and business investors.

With a total budget of 3.3 million euros, the GAP programme is working to develop sustainable, environmentally-friendly crop protection agents. Staff and research groups at five Dutch universities (the UvA, Wageningen University, Utrecht University, Leiden University and Radboud University Nijmegen) and ten agriculture sector companies are taking part.

Background of Green Defence Against Pests

Every year, 15 to 20 per cent of the vegetable and ornamental plant harvest is lost to insect damage and viral infections that not even chemical crop protection agents are able to prevent. Moreover, by 2020, regulatory measures and environmental requirements will prohibit the use of any such agents at all, confronting the sector with finding some other way to secure crop production. The GAP research programme is tackling this problem from two angles, with two research themes. One of these themes is studying interactions between antibodies, insect pests and biological agents, aiming to discover new defence mechanisms in wild bell pepper and tomato varieties or plant extracts in chrysanthemums that will act to deter pests during the growth phase, for example. The second theme centres on helping plants to recognise insect pests in order to strengthen their defence response.

STW technology foundation

The STW technology foundation provides funding for leading science and technology research with real world potential. The foundation reserves an annual budget for Perspective Programmes via ´STW – Perspective for the Top Sectors´, a designated financial instrument. All programmes with this designation are involved in developing new technologies based on a multidisciplinary approach and with input and/or financial contributions from private parties and specific activities keyed towards practical applications and entrepreneurship. Ultimately, STW Perspective is intended to help resolve challenges facing innovation and society. With financing provided by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Perspective Programmes are part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research's (NWO) contribution to the Dutch Top Sectors policy.

Participating research institutes and staff

  • SILS-UvA, Robert Schuurink and Michel Haring (programme coordinators),
  • IBED-UvA, Maurice Sabelis, Merijn Kant
  • Wageningen University, Iris Kappers, Harro Bouwmeester and Marcel Dicke 
  • Leiden University, Kirsten Leiss and Peter Klinkhamer
  • Utrecht University, Saskia van Wees and Corne Pieterse
  • Radboud University Nijmegen, Nicole van Dam

Participating companies

ENZA Zaden, Rijk Zwaan, Syngenta, East-West Seed, Incotec, Bejo, Dekker Chrysanten, Deliflor, Fides BV and Keygene NV