Application of biological agents to increase crop resistance to salinity [Greece]

Εφαρμογή βιολογικών παραγόντων για την αύξηση της αντοχής των φυτών στην αλατότητα του εδάφους

technologies_1281 - Greece

Completeness: 69%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Preventing and Remediating degradation of soils in Europe through Land Care (EU-RECARE )
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Technical University of Crete (Technical University of Crete) - Greece

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Use of biological agents as plant salt tolerance facilitators and soil amendments.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


The Trichoderma harzianum fungus and different various types of symbiotic associations of mycorrhizae are used in greenhouse cultivations in coastal Timpaki, Crete, Greece, in order to mitigate the impacts of salinity on crops and to improve the existing soil properties. These biological agents are supplied commercially as soil amendments, and specific treatments vary according to cultivation type.

Purpose of the Technology: The technology is applied as an effective agronomic measure for the increase of plants salt tolerance, the reduction of soil borne diseases that affect plant roots and increase of water and nutrients absorption. This technology prevents or mitigates soil degradation by improving the subsoil structure by causing plant root system expansion and increasing the ability of the plant to absorb nutrients and water. This effect can potentially decrease agricultural inputs (water and fertilizers) up to 40%. An additional benefit is the maintenance and increase of subsoil faunal diversity and the subsequent biodegradation. The improved soil structure leads to higher infiltration rates, mitigates salt accumulation in the root zone and combats soil salinity, one of the main soil degradation problems in the coastal zone. Finally, the application of the biological agent helps to keep the plants healthy thus leading to increased crop yield, and reduced production risk.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: The implementation of such agents usually takes place once per plant as the microorganisms coexist with the plant (symbiotic association) and can be performed in different stages of the crop cultivation depending on the commercial product, e.g. as solution in the irrigation water, as solid soil amendment in the early growing stages, or optimally, to be applied in the plant nursery (seed bio-priming), or during planting (plant inoculation). Biological agents require increased organic matter in the soil, absence of toxic substances (e.g. copper, fungicides, and pesticides), and, depending on agent type, suitable soil moisture and temperature. Here we instigate the effects of biological agents in tomato plantations, which are implemented in the early growing stages through irrigation.

Natural / human environment: The average annual precipitation in the area is 500 mm and the climate ranges between sub-humid Mediterranean and semi-arid. Average annual temperature is 18.5 °C with 6 months below 18 °C but above 5 °C, thus classifying the area as subtropical. In the location where the technology is applied, land is mostly privately owned and water rights can be public, cooperative or private. The financial means of the land user applying this technology are more or less on par with those of the rest of the community, although he has wider empirical and theoretical education and higher impact acquired though his involvement in the local agricultural association as agronomist.
This Technology was documented within the scope of FP7 RECARE Project, grant agreement no 603498.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:



Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 0.002 km2.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • 10-50 years ago

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through land users' innovation
Comments (type of project, etc.):

The use of biological agents in agriculture is not new but it is also not part of the traditional cultivation system in the area, therefore the technology is not widely used.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
  • tomatoes
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 300Longest growing period from month to month: September to June


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): The main problem in the region is the change in the groundwater quality, caused by the groundwater exploitation and and the subsequent seawater intrusion, resulting in soil salinisation through irrigation. The poor availability of non-saline water for irrigation results in increased production risk and agricultural inputs.

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Reduced soil fertility and productivity, increase of soil salinity that affects productivity both short-term and long-term.

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • full irrigation

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • integrated pest and disease management (incl. organic agriculture)
  • soil amendments

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A2: Organic matter/ soil fertility
  • A4: Subsurface treatment

Main measures: agronomic measures

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)
  • Cs: salinization/ alkalinization
physical soil deterioration

physical soil deterioration

  • Pu: loss of bio-productive function due to other activities
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bq: quantity/ biomass decline

Main type of degradation addressed: Pu: loss of bio-productive function due to other activities, Bq: quantity / biomass decline

Secondary types of degradation addressed: Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content, Cs: salinisation / alkalinisation

Main causes of degradation: soil management (Intensive cultivation), over abstraction / excessive withdrawal of water (for irrigation, industry, etc.) (Over-pumping), inputs and infrastructure: (roads, markets, distribution of water points, other, …) (Poor coverage of freshwater irrigation network.)

Secondary causes of degradation: crop management (annual, perennial, tree/shrub) (Monocultivation), droughts (Lack of sustainable water resources.)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • reduce land degradation

Main goals: prevention of land degradation

Secondary goals: mitigation / reduction of land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: high

Technical knowledge required for land users: low

Main technical functions: improvement of subsoil structure (hardpan), increase in nutrient availability (supply, recycling,…), increase of water and nutrients absorption rate by plants, plant root system expansion

Secondary technical functions: increase of infiltration

Agronomic measure: use of biological agents
Material/ species: Trichoderma harzianum or Mycorrhizae
Remarks: 25 gr/10 lt water is enough for 10 tomato plants

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):


If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. biological agents in the form of powder and implementation through irrigation in each growing season in each growing season

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Fertilizers and biocides Biological agents (powder) ha 1.0 3232.0 3232.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 3232.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 3551.65

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

The only cost is the supply of the formulation with the biological agents which should be done before each growing season.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: subtropics. 6 months below 18 °C but above 5 °C

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • high (>3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil texture: Medium (characterized mainly as sandy clay loam or clay loam)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Availability of surface water:


Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Ground water table: < 5 m, 5-50 m

Water quality (untreated): good drinking water, for agricultural use only (irrigation), unusable (brackish irrigation water)

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
  • rich
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users
Population density: 10-50 persons/km2
Annual population growth: 1% - 2%
Level of mechanization: Manual labour and mechanised (automatic drip irrigation system)
Market orientation:

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • leased
  • individual
  • cooperative
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)
  • individual
  • cooperative

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production


risk of production failure

Water availability and quality

demand for irrigation water

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs


Socio-cultural impacts

Improved livelihoods and human well-being


Ecological impacts


soil moisture



Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

beneficial species


pest/ disease control

Other ecological impacts

Increased soil biodiversity


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase not well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought not well

The variety of biological agents is wide. A choice of thermophilic microorganisms is made in order for them to be able to withstand the high temperature conditions attained inside the greenhouse.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

very positive

Long-term returns:

very positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

100% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

There is a strong trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: 15% of the local farmers have already applied the technology. As the level of knowledge and farming expertise in the area increases and word of mouth makes the good results of the technology known, more farmers apply it.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Simple to implement and little additional workload.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Introduction of pre-inoculated plants.
Reduced net costs of agricultural inputs.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Keep soil free of heavy metals and pesticides that limit biological agents so that they can function as intended.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
The technology greatly improves soil functions and crop production.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Keep soil free of heavy metals and pesticides that limit biological agents so that they can function as intended.
There is a wide variety of biological agents and their application can be tailored to the specific needs of each cultivation.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Research on specific applications for local cultivations and conditions in order to achieve optimal results

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
High initial cost. Biological agents can be purchased in bulk quantities by the local farmer's union to reduce costs.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

Links and modules

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