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Fighting Weeds for Better Meals

About

  • Date

    04 September, 2018

About

Date

04 September, 2018

Food is everyone’s business! Yet farmers play a vital role in ensuring that there is enough to feed a growing population. However, they face many challenges when ensuring productivity of their farms and weeds are one of the biggest contributing factors.
Food has always been a source of great pleasure to me. Enjoying long diners and good wine is just part of my French cultural background. At the same time, I’m an agronomist by education and before leading the Integrated Weed Management program at Bayer, I used to work for the food chain partnership for many years. It was an absolutely exciting time for me to set up collaborations with food industries. My key lessons learned from that time are that you always have to demonstrate the values of your solutions. Not only the financial benefits but also the technical advantages and the societal contribution. Here is how I transfer this wisdom to our Integrated Weed Management program.

Christine enjoying a glass of hibiscus juice in Marrakech

Et voilà: Some of my insights at a glance

In the fields, weeds compete with crops for light, water and space. As a result, weeds destroy enough food to feed over 1 billion people each year. Today, weeds are still one of the biggest challenges in agriculture and farmers are always looking for new solutions to preserve their harvests. That’s why they use a variety of mechanical or chemical means to control them. However, being super adaptable to their environments, weeds evolve by becoming resistant to any tactics repeatedly used. To fight this trend, farmers must constantly challenge their weed control approach and implement an Integrated Weed Management plan across their cropping systems.

In short: managing weeds preserves the harvest and contributes to food security in the longer run. Human nature is generally not receptive to change and that’s why to communicate this key message it is important to demonstrate to farmers that adopting best weed management practices is economically more sustainable and technically more efficient. That’s a lot, isn’t it?! But here is why we believe that with our IWM Platforms we can tackle all of these objectives together.

It pays off to experience the value of IWM, first hand!

Our IWM platforms are multi-year trial sites where different weed control tactics are tested: from crop rotation to the mixture of herbicides up to tillage and early drilling. During this time, all the chemical and non-chemical technics which could be implemented locally are combined to achieve best weed control and reduce the weed seed bank.

The results speak for themselves. In Coutevroult (France) we verified that the combination of agronomic tactics and chemical technologies allow optimum weed control (even in a resistance context) and a reduction of the weed seed bank in the mid-term. As an example, the introduction of a spring crop such as corn into the rotation broke the autumn weed biological cycle and opened up more options to diversify modes of action. Between 2014 and 2017, we found that the more modes of action used (up to 3), the higher the average efficacy and yields achieved.

And it gets even more exciting! Every year, the economic results of our IWM platforms are evaluated. The investments made by the farmer to implement new tactics are compared to the yield and the farmer’s net profits are calculated at harvest. Let me give you a quick example. In a simplified rotation on a plot with ALS resistance in Coutevroult, the implementation of crop cultivation methods to limit the weed density and various chemical programmes to manage resistance and aiming for 100% efficacy resulted in an extra €1512 per hectare over 3 years (+€504 per hectare per year average). That was a great feeling!!! Check out more of our agronomic and economic results in Coutevroult right here.

Seeing is believing!

The best way to convince farmers and other partners in the field on the advantages of practicing Integrated Weed Management is to offer the opportunity to visit our IWM platforms. This year, more than 220 visitors came to Coutevroult and left the platform with Integrated Weed Management on top of their mind. Learn more about the HerbInnov event in France in 2018.



Experience tells us that it’s important to keep on repeating the messages. Persistence is key and it’s very useful for farmers to have several opportunities to understand what the easiest practices are to adopt, and which ones require more time. To do so, we conducted a survey to gain a better understanding on the motivations of the growers to change their practices. Click here to access to the HerbInnov growers survey.

And the adventure continues…In 2018, HerbInnov will become five regional IWM platforms in France in order to be even closer to farmer concerns and to make practices evolve. You can also now visit IWM Platforms in Poland, Iran, Germany, Serbia and very soon in Brazil.

Integrated Weed Management really pays off to shape agriculture in a more sustainable way. It preserves harvests, secures food production globally and help farmers to increase their productivity.
 

About

Date

04 September, 2018