Work packages

WP1
National and transnational stakeholder involvement and implementation of results    


Objectives: To provide references concerning benefits and drawbacks of strip-cropping and plant residues for soil fertility strategies in field vegetable production at medium sized organic farms. Specifically to: 1) identify local stakeholders’ knowledge and develop ideas in an iterative co-design approach on benefits of diversification in space, time and genes, and plant-based fertilizers; and 2) evaluate experimental strip-cropping trials (WP3) by discussing results and identify pathways towards increased use of strip-cropping in Europe.

Activities include workshops with stakeholder involvement, across the project period, to increase awareness and dialogue on strip-cropping and identify local technical/practical knowledge on organic systems and plant based fertilizers. 

Tangible outputs: 1st year report from national stakeholder workshops; transnational report and workshop in 3rd year summarizing co-design experiences, trial results and pathways for adoption of strip-cropping and fertility strategies.


WP2
Agro-ecological crop traits for cropping systems designs    

 

Objectives: To develop a database with agro-ecological traits of yielding vegetable crops and cover crops and use the database (including WP3 results) to evaluate ex-ante alternative designs of strip-cropping systems.

Data on agro-ecological traits of species and cultivars is collated from scientific publications and practice-oriented resources as a basis for design of strip-cropping systems. The end-product will be a database of agro-ecological crop traits linked to a field level model for strip-cropping system evaluation and design in WP3. Focus will be on species’ interspecific interactions and their complementarities contrary to classical sole-cropped systems that focus on intra-specific traits. Crop species combinations need to be compatible spatially and temporally in e.g. light interception patterns (e.g. erect versus planofile), rooting patterns (deep versus shallow), resistance to pathogens, chemical traits etc. and concerning management operations of sowing, planting, green manuring, fertilization, weeding, harvest.

Tangible outputs: Publicly available scientific review and database concerning width and species of strip-cropping effects on yield and ecosystem service.  This will be hosted by the Dutch National Science Foundation NWO and linked to partner and SUREVEG websites.


WP3
Research station and farm trials    


Objective: To conduct research station and farm trials, ensure measurements, integrate and coordinate planning, sampling and data analysis across tasks for development of strip-cropping systems and fertility strategies. Effects of the factors strip-cropping and fertility strategy will be investigated by a full factorial experimental design, each factor having three treatments in four replicates. Indicators of a) short term fertilizer value and soil nutrients’ availability and b) longer term fertilizer value and build-up of SOM and soil fertility as well as c) functional biodiversity will be analysed. Treatment plots will be stationary during the two year of field trials to accumulate effects over the period.

Field trials’ management will be adjusted to local conditions and practices, and reduced tillage systems and with controlled traffic (GPS steering) where possible. Farm trials will have a lower complexity than research station trials and may test the two factors separately.

Objectives: To investigate the crop above and below-ground growth, yields and nutrient use efficiency in research station and farm trials. 

The field trials will test the two factors strip-cropping and fertility strategy. The three treatments for the 1st factor strip-cropping are: 1) First sole crop; 2) Second sole crop; 3) strip-cropping of first and second crop. The three treatments of fertility strategies are described in Task 3.2. Strip-cropped crops are expected to be cabbage, carrot, leek, celeriac, tomato and faba bean. The cabbage-faba bean SC system will be tested in at least three countries. 

Tangible outputs: Internal reporting, a scientific paper, and contributions to SUREVEG communication to stakeholders (WP1, WP5). 

Task 3.2 Fertility strategies of soil-improvers and fertilizers from waste and soil fertility

Objectives: To develop fertility strategies based on slow releasing soil-improvers and fast releasing fertilizers to sustain soil fertility, C storage and ensure high crop production.

For each research station trial and selected farm trials, a fertility strategy maximally based on pre-treated organic waste will be elaborated for the strip-cropping system. The fertility factor tested will be based on different types of Slow releasing, stabilized Soil-improvers of recycled waste (SS) supplemented, if necessary, with Fast releasing plant-based Fertilizers (FF). The fertility factor includes three treatments:

1.       (Pre-treated) animal manure (as control) + FF if needed

2.       Pre-treated plant residues SS + FF if needed

3.       Co-treated plant residues and animal manure SS + FF if needed

 

Doses will be applied according to a balanced N and P supply aimed at optimal crop nutrition. The slow releasing SS will consist of e.g. chopped and/or composted plant residues of locally recycled plant waste, e.g., park and garden waste, with a high content of stabilized organic matter or with a high content of slowly degradable C-rich components (e.g. lignin). The fast releasing FF will consist of chopped, ensilaged, biogas digested plant residues or extracted plant biomass of legumes with a low C/N ratio and fast mineralization of nutritional content. 

 

Tangible outputs: Internal reporting, a scientific paper and contributions to SUREVEG communication to stakeholders (WP1, WP5). 

Task 3.3 Functional biodiversity of belowground organism groups.

Objectives: To investigate the effect of strip-cropping systems and fertility strategies on functional biodiversity of belowground organisms groups. 

In selected trials the effects of strip-cropping compared to the sole-cropped systems and fertility strategies (described in Task 3.1 and Task 3.2), will be evaluated using selected indicators of soil functional biodiversity. 

Tangible outputs: Internal reporting, a scientific paper and contributions to SUREVEG communication to stakeholders (WP1, WP5). 

Task 3.4 Functional biodiversity of aboveground organism groups

Objective: To assess to which extent strip-cropping supports functional diversity of aboveground organisms and the agroecosystem services they provide (natural biological control and pollination). 

To assess whether strip cropping increases the abundance and diversity of herbivore natural enemies and pollinators, and their within-field distribution, efficacy and synergies; aboveground and surface dwelling arthropods will be sampled at selected research station and farm trials.

Tangible outputs: Internal reporting, a scientific paper and contributions to SUREVEG communication to stakeholders (WP1, WP5). 


WP4
Smart machinery for SC systems    


Objectives: To develop a modular, multi-purpose robotic tool, including built-in sensors and cameras, for the automation of strip-cropping field operations including a robotic tool for precision fertilization.

The robotic tool will operate upside down, attached to a wide-span mobile carriage similar to gantry systems used in Controlled Traffic Farming or a pivot irrigation system. The above-crop orientation will facilitate the autonomous operation of the tool and it will allow a smarter actuation at single-plant scale. The robotic tool will be developed as a ”proof of concept”, meaning that, the work will be focused on one type of sensing technology and one type of actuation tool.

Tangible outputs: Design specifications of prototype with detailed descriptions of all mechanical, electrical and electronic components. The integrated and operative prototype, all sensing and control algorithms working, and testing in field. Contributions to SUREVEG communication to stakeholders (WP5). 


WP5
Coordination and dissemination    


The objective of this WP is to coordinate the project and ensure SUREVEG dissemination and communication.

Overall project management will ensure delivery of project outcomes including monitoring of the scientific activities and deliverables, project administration and IP management. The decision body is the Steering group. The coordination activities include communication with the CORE organic COFUND secretariat, participation in COFUND seminars and dissemination in the form of internal and public publications, news releases, meetings, videos, conference participation and peer review publications.