Smart farmers

Background

Experimenting with cover crops to suppress nutsedge

The Portuguese Operational Group HortInf combats weeds with non-chemical alternatives.

Agriculture in the EU and worldwide has become increasingly dependent on pesticides.

Inspired by results in other member states, the Portuguese Operational Group HortInf is trying to find non-chemical alternatives to conventional weed management that are suitable for Portuguese farmers.

Potatoes, corn and barley

One of the farmers involved in this project is Francisca Chaves Ramos. For 10 years she has primarily cultivated potatoes, corn and barley. “I had been struggling with the chemical weed management on my farm. When farmers` organisation AgroMais Plus approached me to join their project, I immediately said yes.”

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Traditional mechanical weeding methods used to combat nutsedge increases these weeds instead of eliminating them. - Photo: EIP-AGRI
Traditional mechanical weeding methods used to combat nutsedge increases these weeds instead of eliminating them. - Photo: EIP-AGRI

More rhizome sections

Perennial weeds like nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus and Cyperus esculentus) multiply through bulbs, rhizomes (rootstalks) and root sections. Traditional mechanical weeding methods lead to more rhizome sections which propagates these weeds instead of eliminating them.

Francisca: “At my farm we use chemicals for approximately 90% of the weed control. We are now looking for ways to use cover crops to suppress the nutsedge.”

Francisca is positive about cooperating with the researchers. “It is great that we as farmers can help researchers to test ideas in the field. I think every farmer should be willing to participate in a cooperation like this.”

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Farmer Francisca standing in her field that is used for trials to find non-chemical alternatives to conventional weed management. - Photo: EIP-AGRI
Farmer Francisca standing in her field that is used for trials to find non-chemical alternatives to conventional weed management. - Photo: EIP-AGRI

Limitations and constraints

Isabel Calha, one of the researchers involved in the project, also appreciates the cooperation. “Working with farmers allows us to discuss the limitations and constraints that we face while testing new crops or equipment.”

“We also learnt to take issues into account like access to equipment, costs and farmers` perceptions about advantages and disadvantages of each practice in the short and in the long term”,concludes Isabel.

Also read: Not afraid to experiment with cover crops

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