Keywords: Integrated farming systems, LIFE project, Less intensive production, Environmental protection.
Successful less-intensive integrated farming systems must be built on a sound base of ecological research aimed at understanding and optimising the ecological interactions within systems, with research effort focused on the need to resolve the conflicting requirements for control of pests, diseases and weeds and the need to minimise the environmental impact of crop production. To meet this challenge, there is a need to devise farming systems that exploit natural regulatory mechanisms for preventing severe outbreaks of pests, diseases and weeds, and to justify their inclusion in integrated systems which are economic, ecologically sound and sustainable in the long term.
Opportunities to achieve this goal are expected to come from whole-system approaches that involve:
(i) modification of cropping sequences to increase crop diversity.
(ii) the use of tillage systems that favour natural control of key pests, diseases and weeds, improve soil structure and reduce demand for external nitrogen
(iii) development and use of weed, pest and disease threshold criteria, decision models and non-chemical methods to reduce agrochemical inputs and
(iv) modification of field margins to encourage natural enemies of pests’ The effects and implications of important interacting farming system components – rotation, cultivation, fertilisation, crop protection – will be discussed together with farm economics.
Preliminary results from the LIFE project, which is pioneering an integrated farming systems approach in the UK, show that considerable reductions in Ã¢â‚¬Å“off-farmÃ¢â‚¬Â inputs of agrochemicals are possible, whilst providing quality yield without economic loss to the farmer.
V W L Jordan and J A Hutcheon, Dept. of Agric. Sciences, University of Bristol, AFRC IACR, Long Ashton Research Station, Bristol BS18 9AF, UK.
32 pages, 1 figure, 8 tables, 43 references.