Far Fewer Pesticides in Israeli Crops, Ministry Says

A pomegranate plantation in Kfar Harif, a moshav in south-central Israel. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

A decade after it was implemented, the Agriculture Ministry said that a project to reduce the amount of pesticides in Israeli produce has seen usage drop by over 60 percent. The Ministry said that tests of produce from farms throughout the country reflected the drop in use of chemical pesticides, with farmers replacing them with “biological pesticides.”

Biological pesticides are based on natural products, such as grasses and insects, that fight off infestation of plants and crops. Several Israeli start-ups have produced natural pesticides that are based, for example, on desert plants and weeds which contain natural elements that ward off pests. The Ministry’s project started out as a small pilot at a farm in Beit She’an a decade ago, the Ministry said, but proved to be so successful that it quickly spread throughout the country.

Another tactic used is the use of owls to “defend” fields. Thousands of owls are now stationed at farms around the country, and as it happens, owls are fond of the specific pests that generally plague Israeli produce, the Ministry said.

According to Dr. Yoav Motro, who heads the project, the success of Israel’s use of biological pesticides has made country a world leader in the area. “As a result, Israel has had important opportunities to work with countries around the world in implementing our know-how, including Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Cyprus, Switzerland, Spain and Italy, among others,” he said.