Open field day in Vallevecchia (Northeastern Italy) – 17 July 2018

About 110 visitors, mostly farmers, technicians and agronomists, took part in the open field day held on 17 July 2018 at Veneto Agricoltura’s Vallevecchia experimental farm. This is an annual event in which the farm opens its doors to show the ongoing experimental trials and illustrate their objectives and methodologies.

This year the event was centered on Integrated Weed Management (IWM), a topic of great interest for sustainable agriculture. The occasion was provided by the launch of the European project IWMPRAISE (Integrated Weed Management: PRActical Implementation and Solutions for Europe), a five-year project for which specific experimental tests have been set up in Vallevecchia.

IWM experimental trial on maize

During the open field day, the participants were able to learn about the activities carried out by Veneto Agricoltura in collaboration with the National Research Council in order to tackle the complex problem of IWM, with the aim of reducing the use of herbicides.

Visitors were able to see a new concept agricultural machine produced by Maschio-Gaspardo in action. This is a hoeing/sprayer machine that, using precision farming technologies (semi-automatic tractor guidance system with RTK correction), simultaneously applies herbicide along the crop rows and cultivates inter-row soil, with a positioning error not exceeding 2.5 cm. This system allows to reduce herbicides to one third of the quantity that would be used in broadcast application strategies.

The prototype of hoeing/sprayer machine produced by Maschio-Gaspardo

Another IWM experimental trial in Vallevecchia is related to weed management in the transition phase from conventional to conservation agriculture (CA). CA is based on tillage reduction, crop rotation and continuous soil cover by crop residues and cover crops, and is one of the main strategies to implement sustainable agriculture, reduce cost and improve soil fertility. However, CA agronomic practices need to be adapted, especially in relation to weed management.

In the trial, three strategies are compared: one strategy with high use of herbicides, both in pre and post-emergence, a second strategy based on cover crops and post-emergence herbicides only, and the third strategy aiming to reduce herbicide use by adopting techniques for sowing cover crops that increase their ability to compete against weeds, by using non-chemical termination techniques, such as roller crimpers, or by selecting cover crops which are killed by winter frost.

Weed management in the transition phase from conventional to conservation agriculture

The open field day in Vallevecchia was a good opportunity to also present the three LIFE projects hosted in the farm: Agricare (on precision agriculture), Helpsoil (on conservation agriculture) and WStore2 (on water management). The latter was recently awarded with the “Best of LIFE” award among the best 20 LIFE projects.