Maria Lodovica Gullino

Precision Crop Protection in Sustainable Agriculture

Co-author: Massimo Pugliese, AgriNewTech s.r.l., Torino, Italy

In the past decade, new technologies and tools permitted to redefine crop protection, helping reducing the environmental impact and increasing effectiveness of plant disease management strategies. New instruments useful for the collection of images and their processing, as well as methods of remote diagnosis have been developed. The possibility of using non-invasive optical sensors to highlight, identify and quantify the presence of pathogens on different scales has provided great possibilities for the diagnosis of plant diseases. Image processing using machine and deep learning in plant pathology is applied for the classification of diseases, the identification of pathogens and the quantification of disease severity. The use of mobile phones brings the results of these analyses everywhere. Sensors applied to tractors or other equipment permit to monitor the environmental and soil conditions, providing, together with the possibility of collecting and processing data, useful information for deciding how and when to intervene with sprays or other treatments.  Smart packaging of horticultural products can provide information on their safety (presence of chemical contaminants, such as pesticide residues or mycotoxins) and freshness, as well as extend their shelf-life. The results obtained in projects carried out in the horticultural sector will be critically discussed, as well as the constraints still hampering a broader practical application of the new technologies. The need of investing in training a qualified and up-dated extension service as well as the many opportunities offered to young graduates to start companies in this field will be stressed.


Professor of Plant Pathology, Director of The Center of Competence for the Innovation in the agro-environmental and agro-food sector (AGROINNOVA) and Vice-Rector for the Valorization of Human and Cultural Resources of the University of Torino. She has been President of the International Society for Plant Pathology (ISPP), the Italian Society for Plant Pathology (SIPAV), the Italian Association for Plant Protection (AIPP) and the Italian Association of the Scientific Societies in the field of agriculture (AISSA). Her research field is plant pathology, with special attention to sustainable crop protection, biosecurity, climate change and plant diseases, with a special focus on plant health in the frame of circular health. Coauthor of 30 books, author and/or coauthor of over 1,000 scientific publications. Since 2008 she coordinates for Springer a Series of Books on “Plant Pathology in the 21st century”. She is and has been responsible of many European and international research projects and received several awards for her scientific work. As journalist, she cooperates with several newspapers and magazines and also writes popular books.