In the last decades, some herbicides have been widely recognised for their environmental as well as health toxicity risks. Although a transition to organic farming would tackle these issues, such initiative requires several years of support and effort to be viable. An option that is sometimes unfeasible for farmers who must continue their activity and face an increasing and often unknown resistance of weeds in crops.
Providing a ready to use solution to farmers, in order to limit the use of herbicides and therefore guarantee safer food, is the objective of Sergiu Treer, Katrin Scherer and their team. “During 2020 we have monitored over 600 fields across Luxembourg, and of those, more than half have had different weed infestation problems on them, weeds that have escaped treatment. For us, the important information now is to find out the truth as to why these hundreds of weeds populations are still there, in the crop, after they have been treated with herbicides which should have eliminated them”, explains Sergiu Treer, engineer at LIST and member of the national Sentinelle IV & V projects.
With a personalised approach depending on the location of the crop, the researchers assess whether the weeds are resistant to a range of herbicides or if it comes from environmental conditions or practical mistakes. Such information enables Sergiu and his team to provide farmers and the government with direct recommendations based on rigorous science, thus avoiding the spraying of ineffective or over-abundant herbicides. “Farmers’ actions, then is to eliminate products that do not work, thereby lowering the amount of chemicals sprayed. That is our end goal for this work”, says Sergiu.
As a member of the "BETTER TRAINING FOR SAFER FOOD" Initiative of the European Union, Sergiu is entitled to holding public talks, training sessions and information dissemination on the Integrated Pest Management principles laid out in IPM EU directives. “Combining this EU information to our national projects enable us to provide farmers with key information regarding their own weeds resistance to herbicides, but also to explain them our results through, e.g., our demonstration fields and greenhouses”, adds Sergiu.
Their constant investigations on fields are also disseminated to advisers of the Ministry of Agriculture of Luxembourg (ASTA) who can advise farmers, whether resistance problems have been confirmed in their area. As the LIST database is continuously expanding, the information available to the farmers is increasingly accurate and personalised.
Farmers are the main benefiter from the LIST project. The second – and often invisible - benefiter, is us, the consumer. Less products sprayed on the crop, means less residues in the crop and soil, less exposure to those chemicals.