The European Commission has imposed a stringent regulatory scheme for pesticide authorisation, which includes an assessment of potential risks for aquatic organisms and terrestrial macro-organisms. However, the assessment of the toxicity of pesticides on soil microorganisms relies on a protocol that does not identify effects on key microbial functions and on microbial diversity.
As acknowledged by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) soil microorganisms play a key role in ecosystem functioning and there is a lack of appropriate methods to assess impacts on them. ARISTO, the European industry-academia network for revising and advancing the assessment of the soil microbial toxicity of pesticides, started in 2021 and addresses this need by developing and standardizing new methods for the assessment of soil microbial toxicity of pesticides.
ARISTO is an international training network (ITN) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement.
ARISTO focuses on the ecotoxicological response of key soil functional groups like ammonia oxidizing microorganisms and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi as microbial indicators of pesticide toxicity. Its training programme is built along five main research objectives:
- to develop and standardize in vitro tests to assess pesticide toxicity on phylogenetically and ecophysiologically distinct soil ammonia oxidizing microorganisms and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi,
- to develop advanced laboratory and field tests to assess pesticide toxicity on natural assemblages of soil ammonia oxidizing microorganisms and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi,
- to evaluate the toxicity of pesticides on soil microbial networks and microorganisms from different trophic levels within the soil food-web, as well as consequences of possible effects on ecosystem functioning,
- to develop novel tools and procedures to evaluate the soil microbial toxicity of pesticide mixtures and bio-pesticides,
- to develop and validate advanced in silico tools for prioritizing transformation products of pesticides with potential toxicity to soil microorganisms.
Within ARISTO, ECT contributes to the development of methods to assess the toxicity of pesticides and their mixtures on soil microorganisms and their interaction with soil invertebrates such as nematodes. In the course of the project, ECT is hosting one PhD student (early-stage researcher, ESR) together with INRAE (Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement) in Dijon.
For more information, see the ARISTO website.