Alternative weed control solutions – an EU project

You may have noticed that last month we heavily focused on weeds and alternative weed control solutions across a range of crops and farm types. Whilst we love to delve into our archive materials and re-share them, the reason we were heavily focused on weeds was due to our involvement in the Oper8 project.

Oper8 is a three year EU horizon project that brings together farming organisations, applied researchers and academic institutions to help share and demonstrate alternative weed control solutions. ADAS and Agricology are delivery partners for the UK, as we work towards improving farmer and grower confidence in alternative weed control solutions.

8 organisations from 7 countries (see right) make up the project partners, all bringing their own specialisms and experience of specific weed management approaches. Many of the project partners have been previously involved in researching specific novel weeding solutions, so it provides a chance to find out about projects they have worked on relating to techniques such as robotic and electrical weeding.

The first 12 months of the project have been busy! You can find a few highlights below. The project outputs are starting to pick up speed, you’ll be hearing more about our work planned for the next 12 months soon.

One of the foundation pieces of work during the early stages of the project was a survey to understand perceptions towards herbicide usage and the barriers to adopting alternative approaches. You can read more about the general survey results on the Oper8 website, the two charts below give a great snapshot of UK respondents’ views.

Most participants agreed with five statements relating to the usage of chemical herbicides and the potential negative impacts that their use can have on the user and the environment. 11% or less of all participating farmers disagreed or strongly disagreed with these statements.

Chart about barriers for farmers adopting alternative weed control solutions

Demonstration days play a key role within the project and this year we were at Newcastle University Farms, both at Nafferton and Cockle Park, where the System Cameleon was demonstrated. The Cameleon is a Swedish designed modular based system that replaces multiple attachments and allows for harrowing, seeding, fertiliser incorporation, interrow hoeing, weed harrowing and under sowing. You can see John Pawsey demonstrating how effective it is at knocking out blackgrass and other arable weeds in this video.

Further to the demonstration days, you may have seen the ADAS and Agricology teams out at numerous industry events spreading the word about the Oper8 project and linking up with farmers and industry professionals to make plans for project work in 2024.

In a move to include small and medium size growers in the conversations, Agricology presented at the Organic Grower Gathering alongside Michael Fitzsimmons from Cinderwood Market Garden, sharing approaches to weeding in small scale vegetable production, which included discussion around using allelopathy to reduce weeds such as couch grass, and an overview of the best tools on the market for human scale veg production.  

Organic Growers Gathering alternative weed control solutions session

Two webinars were organised during the year. Watch the October webinar on cover crop usage across Europe below, and click here to see the webinar from April on electric weeding in blackcurrant production, vineyards and grassland.

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In recent weeks, the first iteration of the Oper8 inventory has been launched. The platform organises content under the five pillars of the Integrated Weed Management framework and you can find a range of papers and projects that focus on alternative weed control solutions.

Integrated weed management framework

The last major piece of project work for 2023 was the national workshop on weed control. Together with ADAS, we brought together 20 farmers, researchers and advisors to assess the solutions identified for the UK in both arable and horticultural production. The results from this day are being collated at the moment and from this we will be selecting the 6 best practices in each cropping area to create best practice abstracts and also take a further 3 solutions forward for a cost-benefit-analysis.

Oper8 national workshop on alternative weed control solutions
Oper8 national workshop on alternative weed control solutions

In 2024, we’ll be lining up several more demo days and creating a range of videos and podcasts that help bring in to focus alternative weeding approaches and how farmers and growers are transitioning to new techniques.

Keep an eye out for updates in the new year and please dive in to our archive of resources on weed control – starting with the associated articles listed below.

Oper8 logo

Associated Agricology Partner Organisation(s):

The information contained above reflects the views of the author/s and does not necessarily reflect that of Agricology and its partners.

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