Crop protection in European maize-based cropping systems: Current practices and recommendations for innovative Integrated Pest Management
Maize-based cropping systems (MBCSs), with different frequency of maize in the crop sequence, are common in European arable systems. Pesticide use differs according to the type of active ingredients and target organisms in different regions. Within the EU Network of Excellence ENDURE, two expert-based surveys were conducted focusing on four European study regions where experts were asked to identify MBCSs in their region, determine the current crop protection practices, propose advanced practices against major pests, weeds and diseases, and evaluate the potential agronomic, environmental, economic and social impact of innovative Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tools on the sustainability of MBCSs. In the northern region (Denmark and The Netherlands), maize is mostly cultivated as non-irrigated continuous silage maize or rotated with grass, while in the central-eastern region the major systems are non-irrigated continuous grain maize (Tolna county, Hungary) or grain maize grown in rotation with winter wheat, oilseed rape and sunflower (Békés county, Hungary). In the south-western (Ebro Valley, Spain) and southern (Po Valley, Italy) regions, continuous and irrigated grain maize, as well as irrigated grain and silage maize/winter wheat rotations are prevalent. Differences in current and proposed advanced crop protection practices for MBCSs were identified between regions due to specific pest, weed and disease problems. The tolerant/resistant non-GM maize cultivars, early detection methods, pest and disease forecasting models, precision/patch spraying using GPS spray maps and the community-based decisions through information sharing were commonly recommended for innovative IPM implementation in all regions. Deviations in the recommendations between regions were mainly caused by differences in the evaluation of economic or social impact of some tools (i.e. innovative mechanical weeding). Applied multi-disciplinary research and farmer incentives to encourage the adoption of innovative IPM strategies are essential for sustainable MBCSs development in Europe. The introduction of innovative tools into IPM strategies can contribute significantly to addressing the EU's strategic commitment to the sustainable use of pesticides and, consequently, more environmentally sustainable MBCSs.
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