Putting sound science into use is a major challenge in all kinds of fields, not least in farmers’ fields where the gap between everyday farming life and the scientific world can seem particularly large.
ENDURE is putting major efforts into forming and strengthening the links between science and farming practice, not least through the efforts of a team dedicated to training and education programmes.
The work of this team encompasses the ENDURE Summer Schools which target PhD students and a team devoted to ensuring that farmers have access to the latest sound scientific advice on integrated pest management (IPM). The latter group is concentrating its efforts on ensuring this information is made available to agricultural advisers and extension services, the provision of which varies widely across Europe.
So far more than 130 agricultural advisers, in addition to 100 farmers and future farmers, have received training through various ENDURE partners and the traffic is certainly not all one-way.
Thanks to its access to this network of advisers, ENDURE has been able to ensure that the From Science to Field guides produced by its case study teams meet the needs of its target audience and gain valuable feedback on the ENDURE Information Centre (ENDURE IC), which offers agricultural advisers with a European-level point of reference for recommendations and advice, and draws on expertise from across Europe.
Below we take a look at some of ENDURE’s specific training events:
Germany: bringing together public and private sectors
Germany’s Julius Kuehn Institute (JKI) brought together participants from eight public and two private advisory services (Hanse Agro and LMS) at its field experimental station in Dahnsdorf last year. The selection of the audience reflected the make-up of the advisory services in the country, where public and private advisers co-exist.
On the agenda was an introduction to the aims and structure of ENDURE, an examination of plant protection policy in Europe, guidelines for IPM strategies, a discussion on the quality of plant protection advisory services in Germany, a look at the plant protection advisory services in Europe and an examination of the decision-making process necessary to ensure minimal yet effective herbicide and fungicide use.
The second day featured a visit to the long-term experiments at JKI’s field station, where the focus was on the decision-making process used when applying pesticides. This was followed by discussions about the future of public and private advisory services in Germany, the importance of the experiences and tools available for plant protection advice in other European countries and participants’ expectations of ENDURE.
JKI’s Bernd Hommel, a member of ENDURE’s Executive Committee, notes that all the participants agreed on the value of exchanging experiences in plant protection advisory services in different European countries. In particular, he says, it can help improve decision-making processes, particularly in regards to the more strategic aspects, such as IPM.
Denmark: helping farmer-funded advisers
Denmark has an extensive farmer-funded advisory service in the form of ENDURE partner Danish Agricultural Advisory Service (DAAS). As part of its ENDURE training activities, DAAS last year conducted a one-day workshop for advisors on grass weeds and IPM.
The workshop was arranged in response to demands from advisers for a course in grass weed identification - a difficult task that demands knowledge about the biology of the species among other things - and also to discuss IPM in relation to controlling grass weeds and to hear about advisers’ experiences.
Advisers from the National Centre led the workshop, which first concentrated on identification of grass weeds before turning to a practical example of a farmer faced with a massive invasion of a grass weed that is difficult to control chemically.
The National Centre is now hoping to arrange another session this spring. This will be a practical in-field event staged early in the year so as to allow advisers to use their recently gained knowledge almost immediately in their practical advice to farmers for the coming season.
Rolf Thostrup Poulsen, from DAAS, notes that workshops work best when everyone participates and he and his colleagues have now devised an IPM card game which they are planning to test and hope will maximise collaboration between participants.
Hungary: reaching tomorrow’s farmers today
Hungary has a Facilitators’ Network set up under a project run by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and ENDURE partner Szent Istvan University (SZIE) has been able to use this link to build bridges between the ENDURE network and facilitators.
In addition, SZIE has been responsible for developing a training network for Hungary’s agricultural secondary schools and has used this connection to provide four groups of students with details of the ENDURE network and its aims and activities.
Meetings with farmers have concentrated on IPM in maize and some other crops, such as sunflower and winter wheat, especially on the management of Ambrosia elatior , also known as ragweed and responsible for causing allergic reactions. Farmers’ groups in Hungary have established field experiments to establish the best local practices for managing this weed.
Other meetings with farmers have concentrated on Western corn rootworm, a serious pest in maize crops, and in total more than 100 farmers and future farmers in Hungary have now been involved in ENDURE training activities.
See also: Putting IPM into practice.