A summer to learn about intercropping
Summer is starting and it is time to rest. The IntercropVALUES project started in November and the official kick-off took place at the end of that month, when all partners met in Montpellier to launch the activities and establish the work plan for the rest of the year (and to see each other’s faces, many of them, for the first time). Since then, everyone has been very busy: the work package leaders launching the experiments, defining the methodologies and protocols for the research, designing surveys and shaping the coordination, communication and data management plans. Intense and sometimes cumbersome work, but necessary so that the activities of the rest of the project can develop solidly and its results can be useful, applied and disseminated.
The leaders of the CICS met in March in Florence, thanks to the hospitality of our partners from Rete Semi Rurali, and after agreeing on a series of lines of work and ways of interacting with the other work packages, they defined specific roadmaps for each case: 13 locations, 13 different plans, and different barriers to overcome to reach the desired objectives. In the following months, they have been in dialogue with the stakeholders in the value chains likely to host intercropping products, with farmers and advisors with whom they have begun field trials, and with the researchers who will conduct crop experiments on these fields.
In France, the Occita’Mix case study group met at the Lycée Agricole de Flamarens (near Lavaur, Tarn) to work on the species mixes to be planted in autumn 2023. This was an opportunity to discuss the benefits, performance, and difficulties of growing intercrops; support farmers new to species mixtures in terms of mix composition and technical itineraries; and work with the school’s team of agronomy teachers to develop a number of intercrops that students can experiment with and follow during their school year. They used elements of the serious game Interplay© to guide the discussions.
In Scotland, SRUC and SAOS are looking at how intercrops can be used to produce high-value products: a farm visit was organized in June with lots of intercropping on display, including a spring oilseed rape-pea mix (undersown with a low rate of ryegrass and crimson clover). They discuss highlighting key areas of the supply chain that might be causing issues for products grown using intercrops and investigating potential approaches that might alleviate these. This event gave IntercorpVALUES colleagues a great platform to inform them about the project goals and to set up the basis for future support to the group.
In Italy, participants of the CICS 11, led by Rete Semi Rurali, shared a field day at the Azienda Passerini, an organic farm where they had the opportunity to discuss environmental service clarifications, one of the aims of this CICS. They will also try to define appropriate intercrops for dry conditions to enhance weed control & nutrient use efficiency and facilitate the application of organic regulations for intercropping.
On and on, office work has been alternating with laboratory and field work, sometimes punctuated by coordination meetings. By now, without having completed a year of the project, some of us already feel the need to rest.
But rest and summer need not be synonymous with forgetting about intercropping. For those of us who like the subject and want to have more time to read, catch up, and review some of the readings that have been left pending, or even results of the previous project, ReMIX, that we never had time to see, from IntercropVALUES we will be publishing in the summer months Summer readings of intercropping. The idea is that you arrive to autumn with all the knowledge in your possession, your heads full of information, and your brain oxygenated to continue innovating and looking for solutions to the problems that will surely arise throughout the year.
Happy summer reading!