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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Reaping the Benefits of Microorganisms in Cropping Systems: Is the Regulatory Policy Adequate?

Sundh, Ingvar; Del Giudice, Teresa; Cembalo, Luigi


Within food plant cropping systems, microorganisms provide vital functions and ecosystem services, such as biological pest and disease control, promotion of plant growth and crop quality, and biodegradation of organic matter and pollutants. The beneficial effects of microorganisms can be achieved and/or enhanced by agricultural management measures that target the resident microbial biodiversity or by augmentation with domesticated and propagated microbial strains. This study presents a critical review of the current legislation and regulatory policies pertaining to the utilization of plant-beneficial microorganisms in the European Union (EU). For augmentative approaches, the nature of the intended effect and the product claim determine how a microbiological product is categorized and regulated, and pre-market authorization may be mandatory. Typically, microbial products have been incorporated into frameworks that were designed for evaluating non-living substances, and are therefore not well suited to the specific properties of live microorganisms. We suggest that regulatory harmonization across the sector could stimulate technical development and facilitate implementation of crop management methods employing microorganisms. Possible scenarios for regulatory reform in the longer term are discussed, but more investigation into their feasibility is needed. The findings of this study should serve as a catalyst for more efficient future use of plant-beneficial microorganisms, to the benefit of agriculture as well as the environment.


plant-beneficial microorganisms; regulatory framework; legislation; biological control; biocontrol; plant protection product; plant growth promotion; biostimulant; biofertilizer; microbial safety assessment

Published in

2021, volume: 9, number: 7, article number: 1437
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Molecular Sciences
Del Giudice, Teresa
University of Naples Federico II
Cembalo, Luigi
University of Naples Federico II

Associated SLU-program

SLU Plant Protection Network

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


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