ACTION LAB: LOWER LLOBREGAT RIVER, SPAIN

Events with farmers to promote techniques to improve the efficiency of plant protection product applications and reduce fertilizer applications

CPABLL, one of the partners of the Spanish action lab, recently organized two events for farmers and interested people to promote mitigation measures and best management practices to protect drinking water resources.

Promotion special nozzles to reduce the application volumes

In January, an outdoor demonstration of different types of nozzles and application volumes for plant protection products was held in a field located at the headquarters of the Consorci del Parc Agrari del Baix Llobregat (CPABLL) at El Prat de Llobregat. During this workshop, local farmers could discover good practical examples of the different volumes of application using diverse types of nozzles that resulted in the correct amounts of product reaching the crops.

The majority of participating farmers were surprised by the fact that using flat-fan, twin flat fan and dual pattern flat fan nozzles significantly reduced the amount of plant protection products used without losing effective spray deposition and coverage. Different nozzles and nozzle sizes were demonstrated for different application rates. The farmer advisors emphasized during the demonstration the importance of adopting the correct sprayer calibration to the different nozzles before each application.

To show the efficiency of the nozzles in applying the correct plant protection product volumes, the farmer advisors monitored the spraying range of the nozzles by means of water-sensitive papers randomly placed on the crop. The results proved to be in accordance with the given recommendations. Besides this practical demonstration, excellent results were also  demonstrated for spraying operations on lettuce and artichoke crops.

The farmers were impressed by the results. They were informed about the price and the nozzle lifetimes and admitted that the extra cost of these types of nozzles could be recouped by the reduced cost of not needing to use so much spray.

Nevertheless, there were doubts about the efficiency of these types of nozzles for different crops other than lettuce and artichoke, or at different physiological stages. There was scepticism on the efficiency of these nozzles at the maximum height at which the sprayer bar can work during the applications in combination with the considerable height of certain relevant crops in the area (e.g. artichokes). 

The farmers were also worried about the need to plan the applications during favourable meteorological conditions (dry spells with no or little wind). There were also hesitations about the problems that could occur when adapting the sprayer equipment to the nozzles in function of the compulsory inspections.

All participants (farmers, researchers and farmers advisors) admitted after the meeting that having this kind of dialogue was useful and interesting. Some of the farmers attending this event have already expressed their intention to change the nozzles of their sprayers according to the information provided during the event.

Promotion of Calendula, Lobularia buffer strips and mycorrhiza

At another event at the headquarters of the Agrarian Institute, farmers and other interested persons were presented the results of the projects carried out by an EIP-AGRI Operational Group in the Maresme area (Barcelona) with whom the WaterProtect partner CPABLL has collaborated the last two years. The Maresme Operational Group aims at exploring the use of biological resources to help reduce plant protection products and fertiliser applications.

The successful use of buffer strips with calendula and lobularia to attract pest predators and the use of mycorrhiza symbiosis to reduce the application of fertilizers surprised the people attending. In the case of mycorrhizas, results in the experimental fields proved that the yields in fields where mycorrhiza were used and almost no fertilisers applied were similar to those experimental fields where a more conventional approach was adopted.