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First annual meeting of the European project ReMIX held in France

A group of people standing on grass surrounded by trees

The project partners discussed the status of the different tasks and preliminary results. (Photo: Iniciativas Innovadoras, Natalia Bellostas)

The ReMIX project, funded with 5 million € by the European Union in the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme, will allow overcoming the barriers for adopting species mixtures in European agricultural systems through a 4-year collaborative research project that will produce scientifically credible, but also economically and socially valuable new knowledge for both conventional and organic agricultural systems. FiBL is involved in three work packages, co-leads work package 4 and leads two of the research tasks.

After the first year of intense collaborative work, the ReMIX partners gathered at the TERRENA cooperative in Ancenis, France, from 15 to 17 May 2018 to discuss the current status of the different tasks and the preliminary results already obtained as well as to plan the second year of activities.

Faithful to its multi-actor approach, the scientific sessions of ReMIX were complemented with practical work at the multi-actor level through different workshops spread across the three-day meeting. Different actors of the TERRENA cooperative value chain, such as farmers, advisors, processors, industrial partners and the cooperative CEO were interviewed, allowing ReMIX scientific partners to get an overview of the existing lock-ins in the system that prevent a wider uptake of species mixtures. "The innovative set-up of the annual meeting helped create a mutual learning framework in which ReMIX partners were able to exchange concrete aspects of species mixtures with the actors in the value chain, to share their knowledge and to get direct insight into the actors’ needs at the grassroots level", said Eric Justes, scientific coordinator of ReMIX, currently at CIRAD (France).

Species mixtures, also known as intercrops, crop associations or "plant teams", are well known for their ability to enhance resource use efficiency, improve the control of pests, diseases and weeds as well as increase crop productivity and resilience in variable climatic conditions, in particular in low-input and organic farming systems. However, a number of practical challenges hinder their widespread adoption in Europe. Hurdles relate to the absence of specific adapted varieties for mixes, the lack of locally adapted management practices as well as local, regional, national and international logistics and trading lock-ins, among others.

ReMIX tackles the main aspects related to the introduction of species mixtures in European agricultural systems, by addressing the agricultural value chain as a whole. The project conducts basic and applied research, covering a wide range of scientific areas, such as the study of the mechanisms underlying the benefits of species mixtures and their adaptability to different pedo-climatic conditions. It also tackles the production of new genetic resources and identification of varieties suited for use in species mixtures and the simulation of the effects of species choice, management practices and pedo-climatic conditions on species mixtures performance. ReMIX will also develop optimised technical settings for existing agricultural machinery in order to facilitate species mixtures harvest and grain separation for increasing their profitability.

The ReMIX partnership encompasses public research and higher education organisations, private research institutions, advisory services, farmers’ cooperatives, agricultural equipment industries and SMEs. The partnership includes 24 partners in 11 EU countries, plus Switzerland and China and is coordinated by INRA – Toulouse and CIRAD – Montpellier (France). The project started in May 2017 and will end in April 2021.

FiBL is involved in work package 1 "Multi-actor co-design of species mixtures and on-farm testing" (Raphaël Charles), work package 3 "Analysis of factors and management practices determining the efficiency of species mixtures to control insect pests, diseases and weeds" and work package 4 "Screening, breeding and phenotyping methods for species mixtures" (Pierre Hohmann, co-leader of work package 4, Monika Messmer and Benedikt Haug). Within work package 3 and 4, FiBL leads the tasks 3.3 "Understanding interactions between species mixtures and below-ground pests, diseases and beneficials" and 4.2 "Screen and estimate line/population performances in species mixtures".

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