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Right flower mixture important for creation of 'functional agrobiodiversity'

Functional agrobiodiversity can support resilient cropping systems well, but choosing the right flower mixture is very important here, according to experts.

Functional agrobiodiversity is about strengthening the natural ability to control diseases and pests in crops by stimulating biodiversity. For example, with flowering field edges. "But realize: not everything on the market is effective," Felix Wäckers told an inspiration day for pilot leaders of the national LTO program 'Resilience in Practice.' This took place on Tuesday, September 26, at Wageningen UR's pilot farm in Westmaas.

Doesn't work with wrong mixture
Many studies have already been done on the effect of flower mixtures on agriculture and horticulture and, thus functional agrobiodiversity. "A number of studies show it works," says Wäckers, who is director of Research & Development at Biobest, "but a number of studies show it doesn't, largely because the growers used the wrong mixture. It is, therefore, very important to choose your right mixture."

How well functional agrobiodiversity can work is proven by a multi-year project on field margins in the Hoeksche Waard, according to Wäckers. "It is also a model project at the European level, which has now been emulated in Belgium and Germany, especially in arable farming. And in England in vegetable and fruit growing in particular." Nectar and pollen are essential for insects. "Simply adding nectar flowers can have a great impact on biological pest control."

Sufficiently controlled and yield increased
Sugar beet growers initially worried about controlling aphids due to the removal of neonicotinoids. "However, by deploying functional agrobiodiversity, they can now control aphids sufficiently," Wäckers said. "And yields can even be increased by 10-20%."

Flowering field edges have been monitored in the Hoeksche Waard for the past five years. Researcher Paul van Rijn from the UvA (University of Amsterdam) worked with Wäckers on this and explained the monitoring. The presence of natural enemies such as ladybirds, lacewings, and hoverflies was investigated in both natural vegetation and sown field edges. "It is often not necessary to chemically control aphids because natural enemies are present," Van Rijn said.

Scouting reduces insecticide use
Monitoring natural enemies can be done in many ways. By leaf inspection and also by placing yellow traps or sticky traps in the crop. "Scouting reduces the use of insecticides," Van Rijn concluded after research on consumer potato crops. "And, for example, the number of hoverflies is best predicted by the amount of functional flowers in the field margin."

The LTO program consists of a total of 13 pilots in various agriculture and horticulture sectors and runs with support from the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality. The ambition is for crops to be 'resilient and virtually emission-free' by 2030. In arboriculture, innovation circles are working on this.

Source: LTO

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