Great increases in agricultural production and food quality have been achieved using synthetic pesticides however they have negative impacts on the environment and contribute to pest resistance. Recent regulations limit their use and promote the use of alternative, biobased pesticides. These biopesticides are biodegradable and less toxic, leading to a growing interest for both pesticide and high added value vegetable production.
To make agricultural processes more sustainable, the application of circular economy (use of residues, zero waste) and green chemistry principles are fundamental.
On the topic of agricultural residues and wastes, the tomato industry, in particular cannery industries, produce huge amounts of wastes for which safe and economically beneficial disposal must be developed. Italy is the second largest producer in this industry (2.5 M tons/y) and produces an impressive number of residuals of wash and sorting process (WSR), composed of stems, leaves and green fruits (2-3% weight/weight –w/w). While there has been interest for re-use of another type of waste, tomato pomace, rich in antioxidants, the WSR are employed for energy production, which is in contrast with EU circular economy deal, which suggests using waste biomass to obtain high added value molecules. The WSR are rich in TOM (1.33±0.45-5.27±0.056 g Kg-1) a group of saponins typical of the tomato plant that, despite being known to have significant biocidal effect against fungi and insects, are not used as basis for biopesticides.
Our proposal is to valorize these wastes to obtain two kinds of high added value molecules: tomatines (TOM) and biochar (BC).
In BECOME, WSR will be tested as feedstock for the extraction of biocides fraction and to produce BC that can be use as carrier of these molecules. These tomatine charged biochars will be tested for their effects against plants pathogens and insect pests.
The process of production will be developed meeting the circular economy and green chemistry principles: using greener solvents, and producing solvent-free residues of the process, that can be employed as feedstock for new production (zero waste), promoting a cascading process approach.
This project has received funding from Bando “Circular Economy – Promoting research for a sustainable future – 2022” –Fondazione Cariplo