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Integrated Weed Management: PRActical Implementation and Solutions for Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - IWMPRAISE (Integrated Weed Management: PRActical Implementation and Solutions for Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2020-05-31

Currently, the reliance on herbicides is very high in conventional farming systems. There are several reasons for this, such as the lack of commonly agreed thresholds3 and, until recently, also the lack of effective, readily applicable, cost-effective (in terms of investments and labour costs) non-chemical methods. There are two factors driving the immediate need to change weed control strategies in conventional farming: the rapidly increasing problem of herbicide resistance and the fact that herbicides are the main cause of contamination of both surface waters and groundwater. In addition to these two immediate concerns, it is also widely acknowledged that herbicides have partly been responsible for recent declines in farmland biodiversity and hence a negative impact on the associated ecosystem services

The overall objective of IWMPRAISE is to demonstrate that adoption of IWM supports more sustainable cropping systems both agronomically and environmentally, which are resilient to e.g. climate changes without jeopardising profitability or the steady supply of food, feed and biomaterials. IWMPRAISE aims to develop, test and assess management strategies delivered across whole cropping systems for four contrasting management scenarios representing typical crops in Europe. The specific objectives are to 1) quantify and address current socio-economic and agronomic barriers to the uptake of IWM 2) design, evaluate and optimise novel alternative weed control methods and create a ‘tool box’ of validated IWM methods 3) assess the agronomic performance and environmental and economic sustainability of IWM strategies and 4) make results available to end users. The development of IWM strategies are supported by WPs delivering practical knowledge and tools as well as knowledge and tools for assessing and disseminating the strategies ensuring a vertical integration of the project.
The perception of IPM by experts and farmers have been mapped in order to target the dissemination and communication from the project. Furthermore, this mapping have aided the planning of strategies in the four categories of crops, which the project cover.
In the innovation hub, several methods have shown good results, incl. band-spraying, hoeing, flaming and roller-crimper with adjustable blades. A catalogue of legume species adapted to be used as cover crops in winter cereals and as permanent living mulch for reduced-tillage vegetable systems has been produced.
In arable narrow and wide row crops, a large variety of strategies have been evaluated. Preliminary results show that alternative strategies in annual narrow row crops are realistic and can reach the yield and economics of conventional strategies if adapted to local conditions and weather conditions. In wide-row crops, gross margins for alternative strategies were generally lower due to substantial higher costs related to alternative weeding methods. Combinations of herbicide application and mechanical tactics are the most obvious alternatives, which can lower the herbicide use substantially.
Sensors and a spot spraying technique, which can discriminate between crop and weeds in perennial herbaceous crops such as grassland, and novel IWM strategies in grassland are evaluated. Work on augmentative biological control of Rumex obtusifolius by moth species aims at identifying management practices that prevent establishment of high weed densities in grasslands.
Field experiments in perennial woody crops have been established. Initial results from the first year in Southern Spain have shown that an alternative strategy with cover crops and no tillage displayed a greater weed diversity than the standard strategy. In the UK, mechanical weeding technics have shown promising results in vineyards and trials are continued.
The potential conflict between IWM and non-inversion tillage/conservation agriculture are addressed by studying the transition phase from conventional soil tillage to no-till agriculture. In addition, existing data from long-term experiments on soil tillage are included in a meta-analysis. Practical approaches to target the problems experienced by farmers converting to no-till systems are studied in participatory farm-trial in four partner countries.
Two models of long-term weed community responses to management and environment are applied, which uses the data from all crop categories. A case study uses input data and treatments from an experiment in narrow row crops to compare the impact of IWM on weed communities. Current management practice and most realistic alternative IWM strategies are being compared in economic analyses based on national case studies. The risk of herbicide resistance development is evaluated for contrasting weed management strategies.
Communication and dissemination activities are coordinated by the communication team. The project website is running, including links to national cluster websites. Twenty inspirational sheets have been published. Three annual booklets entitled “Experimental trials in Europe” were published. All is available on the project website. Open field days have been organized to disseminate results and information. The project and the project results are promoted on several social media platforms. The work on producing input for IPM training courses and e-learning has been initiated.
IWMPRAISE combines activities centred on research & development (R&D), with activities that adopt the “interaction innovation model’, involving end users and other actors in a partnership with public research institutes and private businesses, adopting a truly bottom-up approach. IWMPRAISE commits resources to provide the theoretical background as well as the tools required to successfully implement the “interaction innovation model”. IWMPRAISE will address any lack of knowledge in close collaboration with the SMEs providing the non-chemical IWM tools by setting up an ‘innovation hub’. Overarching these activities is WP 9, dedicated to dissemination, outreach and networking.

IWMPRAISE acknowledges that without the acceptance and support of the end user, IWM strategies cannot be successfully implemented in practice. Preliminary and on-going assessments to reveal whether end users find the IWM strategies satisfactory, from an efficacy and cost point of view is, therefore, an important task. The ‘end user approved’ IWM strategies will be assessed thoroughly to demonstrate their short and long-term environmental and economic sustainability. The long-term agronomic benefits, such as a lower weed density, a more diverse weed flora, a lower risk of developing herbicide resistance and a higher robustness of the cropping system to future climate changes will be assessed using a modelling approach along with environmental and economic sustainability of the IWM strategies. By including a diversity of stakeholders at every stage of the project and acknowledging their different priorities, IWMPRAISE aims to design and implement systems that optimise trade-offs between agronomic, economic and environmental assessment metrics.