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ReMIX - Redesigning European cropping systems based on species MIXtures

Title OriginalReMIX - Redesigning European cropping systems based on species MIXtures

ReMIX will exploit the benefits of species mixtures to design more diversified and resilient agro-ecological arable cropping systems less dependent on external inputs. Based on a multi-actor approach, it will tackle practical questions and co-design ready-to-use practical solutions adapted to producing mainly grain cash crops in diverse EU pedo-climatic conditions. ReMIX will: 1) overcome barriers to stimulate the adoption of species mixtures by farmers and in agri-food chains, 2) unravel mechanisms of plant-plant, plant-herbivore and plant-microbe interactions to maximize resource use efficiency, alleviate yield damages and improve ecosystem service provision and development of resilience to biotic stress, 3) identify key traits and create novel breeding material and phenotyping methods and tools adapted to species mixtures, 4) develop generic rules for assembling species for efficient cash crop production using process-based simulation models, 5) develop new intercropping management techniques 6) optimise settings and specifications for agricultural machines for harvesting and separating grains, and 7) develop a tool box, an educational serious game and technical booklets for farmers and advisors.

Detailed Description

The goal of ReMIX is to exploit the benefits of species mixtures to design productive, diversified, resilient and environmentally friendly agro-ecological cropping systems less dependent on external inputs than current systems and acceptable to farmers and actors in the agri-food chain.

Species mixtures – also known as intercrops, crop associations or ‘plant teams’ – can enhance water and nutrient use efficiency and improve the control of pests, diseases and weeds, while increasing crop productivity and resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses, including those triggered by climate change. Species mixtures can lead to reduced use of fossil energy and chemical inputs and enhance production of ecosystem services. The project aims to increase the productivity and yield stability of arable crops and improve their adaptability to increasingly variable environments by the use of species mixtures, both in conventional and organic agriculture and under diverse pedo-climatic conditions.
In species mixtures, different plant species are grown simultaneously on the same field for a significant part of their growth cycle (Willey, 1979). In ReMIX, three types of species mixtures will be studied:

  • Cereal-grain legume bi-specific cash crops (e.g. wheat-pea), harvested at the same time, and producing grains of high nutritional quality for both human consumption and animal feed;
  • Cereal cash crops associated with non-harvested "companion" species (e.g. vetch sown with rapeseed) which can substitute for chemical inputs (nitrogen release, weed control, etc.);
  • Relay intercrops, involving the under-sowing of annual or perennial legumes (e.g. clover) into a cereal cash crop (e.g. after flowering) to create/win growing time for the legume without cereal competition.

Making use of current cereal and legume species diversity, specific lines/populations suited for species mixtures will be selected from a panel of modern and traditional varieties and new genetic resources. ReMIX will follow a multi-actor approach involving a wide range of actors throughout the project lifetime in order to efficiently tackle end users’ practical questions and propose ready-to-use feasible, practical solutions adapted to diverse European pedo-climatic conditions. The project will range from the specification of practical needs and the co-creation of experiments to the evaluation of new varieties and practices in field demonstrations in on-farm platforms. ReMIX will benefit from the participation of several partners in flagship EU projects in the fields of crop breeding, cereal and grain legume cultivation, plant disease and pest control and soil-intercrop modelling.

To reach this ambitious goal, ReMIX will pursue and achieve the following objectives:

At the scientific level: to:

  • Unravel mechanisms of plant-plant interactions in species mixtures in terms of resource use complementarity (light, water, Carbon (C), Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P)) (WP2, WP5)
  • Demonstrate the role of species mixtures in improving ecosystem service provision and conferring resilience to climatic/abiotic stresses such as drought (WP2, WP3, WP5)
  • Determine the role of species mixtures in controlling diseases, pests and weeds and alleviating associated yield reductions (WP3, WP5)
  • Identify species key-traits for improving the performance of species mixtures (WP4, WP5)
  • Conceive novel breeding approaches, methods and tools adapted to species mixtures (WP4)
  • Improve intercrop models for testing species and trait combinations to predict the performance under diverse pedo-climatic conditions and biotic limiting factors  (WP2, WP4, WP5)
  • Develop generic rules for assembling species in mixtures for efficient production (WP6).

At the technological and industrial level: to develop and validate novel approaches, such as:

  • Identify the relevant economic, social and institutional changes needed to successfully use species mixtures in EU farming (WP1, WP7)
  • Breeding concepts to improve the benefits of species mixtures (WP4)
  • Development of novel breeding material adapted to mixtures of grain legume/cereal and companion species (WP4)
  • Optimised settings of existing machinery and novel ideas for specifications for the development of machines for harvesting species mixtures and efficient post-harvest separation of grains (WP6).

At the agricultural level: to foster cooperation with farmers and other value chain actors to deliver:

  • Agronomic techniques to control weeds, pests and diseases using species mixtures and appropriate spatial designs (WP1, WP3, WP6) demonstrating the efficacy of species mixtures
  • Advanced cropping management techniques to optimise the benefits of species mixtures in the various systems, i.e. organic and conventional farming and no-till systems (WP1, WP5, WP6)
  • Co-designed and validated targeted agronomic solutions for improved yield stability using species mixtures (WP1, WP6)
  • A web Species Mixtures Management Toolbox (ReMIX Toolbox), an educational decision support tool (ReMIX Serious Game), technical booklets and EIP-AGRI 'practice abstracts' (ReMIX practical guides) to help farmers and advisors to take full advantage of species mixtures (WP6)
  • European and regional socio-economic institutional and professional networks to promote the transition towards more resilient agroecology-based cropping and farming systems (WP7).
Financing/ Donor
  • European Commission – HORIZON 2020 – The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under the Grant Agreement no 727217
  • Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) under contract number 17.00091.
(Research) Program
  • European Commission, Horizon 2020
  • State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI)
Project partners
  • Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA)
  • Agen Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (SLU)
  • Roskilde Universitet (RUC)
  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • Wageningen University (WUR)
  • Louis Bolk Instituut (LBI)
  • Universität Kassel (KU)
  • Universität Hohenheim (UHOH)
  • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH)
  • Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Agrártudományi Kutatóközpont (MTA ATK)
  • Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria (CREA)
  • Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
  • China Agricultural University (CAU)
  • INRA Transfert (IT)
  • Association de Coordination Technique Agricole (ACTA)
  • Terrena (TER)
  • Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek (DLO)
  • Etablissement Denis (EDE)
  • Instituto Navarro de Tecnologias e Infraestructuras Agroalimentarias (INTIA)
  • Agriculture Advisory Center (AAC)
  • International Organics - European Group (IFOAM EU)
  • Iniciativas Innovadoras (INI)
FiBL project leader/ contact
FiBL project staff (people who are not linked are former FiBL employees)
Role of FiBL

Tasks leader, project partner, Work package co-lead

Research area
  • Department Suisse Romande (Switzerland)
  • Plant Breeding (Department of Crop Sciences)
FiBL project number 20065
Date modified 12.11.2019