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Towards a synergistic management of Weeds, Insect herbivores and Diseases with their natural Enemies in pesticide-free agroecosystems

Project description

Pest management without pesticides

Today’s agroecosystems require new pesticide-free methods for pest regulation processes. To date, the main pests in crop farming – weeds, insect herbivores and pathogens – have been studied separately. The EU-funded WIDE-Synergies project will consider these three pests together. Its hypothesis is that there are synergies in the synchronised management of pests and their natural enemies. The project will conduct two field experiments to assess the effects of pesticide-free farming, identify the synergies and estimate the effects on crop yield. Both experiments will compare farming practices of controlling weeds without herbicides known to also affect insects and pathogens. The results will be of high interest to farmers, who will be invited to follow the research project and discuss its output.


Farming without pesticides is a major challenge for agriculture today. A promising approach is to design agroecosystems that favour pest regulating processes. Weeds, insect herbivores and pathogens are the main pests in cropping systems, and, so far, they have been mostly studied separately. The WIDE-Synergies project will consider them together by hypothesising that there are synergies in simultaneous management of Weeds, Insect herbivores, Diseases, and their natural Enemies (i.e. WIDE) in agroecosystems. The WIDE-Synergies project aims to (i) quantify the effect of pesticide-free farming practices on these pests and their enemies, (ii) identify the synergies and/or trade-offs in their simultaneous management and (iii) assess the effects on crop yield. Two field experiments with cereals will be conducted in parallel at the Wiesengut experimental farm of the University of Bonn, Germany. Both experiments will compare farming practices aimed at controlling weeds without herbicides, and known to also affect insects and diseases: mechanical weeding, intercropping and under-sowing with a living mulch, in addition to two control treatments (i.e. five treatments repeated four times in a randomised block design). One experiment will contain wildflower strips at plot margins as a semi-natural habitat for biodiversity and the other will have bare soil between plots. The abundance and regulation of weeds, insect herbivores and diseases, as well as of their natural enemies, will be monitored in the fields over two consecutive years. Crop yield will be measured at harvest. Treatments will be compared within and between field experiments. The results are expected to be scientifically highly innovative, and of high interest to farmers and their advisers who will be invited to follow the research project and discuss its output. Communication channels will also be developed to inform non-specialists of the research that aims to develop safe and healthy agriculture in Europe.


Net EU contribution
€ 174 806,40
Regina pacis weg 3
53113 Bonn

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Nordrhein-Westfalen Köln Bonn, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00