France’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) portal, www.ecophytopic.fr, continues to expand, acting as a repository for a wealth of information on various aspects of farming with less pesticides across six product groups (arable crops, arboriculture, vegetables, tropical crops, horticulture and viticulture).
For those with a knowledge of French or a good translation program there is much to discover, including the latest edition of Focus, the EcophytoPIC newsletter. This examines innovative agricultural machinery which can be used in IPM approaches, ranging from alternative weeding equipment (including thermal and electronic machinery) through to drones and even paintball guns for placing pheromones in high trees.
Lots of technical information is available via the portal, for example a number of technical sheets have been added to the arable crops section recently, including details of OdERA-Systèmes, a tool for evaluating weed risk in cropping systems, and a guide to mechanical weeding.
There is also a report concerning work conducted on autumn cover crops in association with oilseed rape (OSR) over the course of four years in the Berry region of central France (work which is now ongoing in other regions such as Lorraine, Poitou-Charentes and Midi Pyrénées). This approach can increase biomass and nitrogen in winter OSR, offer better weed control and reduce insect damage in autumn and produce yields equal or better than average with reduced nitrogen inputs.
Information on the identification, risk analysis, agronomic levers and chemical solutions for key diseases in wheat, produced by the Chamber of Agriculture in the Deux-Sèvres department, is also available. The diseases in question are eyespot, brown rust, fusarium and septoria.
A cornerstone of France’s attempts to reduce pesticide use is the DEPHY network which, alongside an experimental system, comprises 1,900 farms taking various approaches to ensure a more parsimonious use of pesticides. ‘Trajectory sheets’ charting the motives for change, the steps taken, the successes and setbacks provide a fascinating insight into real-life examples of change with recent additions to the portal including a clear example of successful biocontrol use in aubergines and a range of measures used in the production of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) early potatoes.
The aubergine case concerns a producer in the south of France, growing a combination of aubergines, courgettes and winter salads in polytunnels, who originally used regular preventive chemical treatments for control of thrips and whiteflies. He has since introduced Amblyseius swirskii , to perform this task, placing a paper sachet of these predatory mites every three plants shortly after planting.
This has been combined with spraying water inside the polytunnels several times a week from late May to the start of September. This has numerous advantages: reducing the temperature (for the benefit of both plants and workers), encouraging the development of Amblyseius swirskii , reducing the development of mites and thrips and producing favourable growing conditions. Alongside the maintenance of functional biodiversity on the farm, these measures have allowed the producer to reduce his Treatment Frequency Index by 56% over the course of four years.
The potato case concerns a producer on the Ile de Ré, a small island on France’s west coast well known for its early potatoes. This grower, alongside other producers on the island, faced particular problems with wireworms (pictured right), for which no sufficiently effective chemical treatment is available. Also of concern is Rhizoctonia disease (black scurf) as the potatoes are sold as a PDO high-quality product. Changes to the cropping system have included the introduction of wheat and barley into the rotation, the use of solarisation to reduce the weed seed bank and pathogen populations in the soil, and growing a green manure, in this case white mustard, as a bio-disinfectant against wireworms.
Each farm in the DEPHY network is supported by an ‘engineer’ (a local expert adviser) and in this case she reports that these changes have produced a low, stable TFI, which varies only marginally according to blight pressure and the recourse to fungicides (one to three treatments according to risk and planting date).
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