Professor in Agronomy and Field Crops.
Coordinator, Group of Agroecology, Area Agroecosystem Services, Institute of Life Sciences
Coordinator, PhD Programme in Agrobiodiversity
Organic and low external input agriculture
Provision of agroecosystem services
Weed ecology and management
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Agroecology and functional agrobiodiversity
- Optimization of organic and low-input cropping systems through the use of functional agrobiodiversity at genetic, species and/or habitat levels: selection and/or combination of attributes (traits) related to the provision of agroecological services (participative on-farm research and on-station research):
- Genetic diversity in arable and vegetable cropping systems: (i) cultivar mixtures, (ii) evolutionary (composite cross) populations, (iii) cover crop species and/or cultivar mixtures: effects on yield, yield quality, weed and disease suppression, soil fertility.
- Species diversity in arable and vegetable cropping systems: (i) cover crops, (ii) living mulches, (iii) cover crop mixtures: effects on yield, yield quality, weed and disease suppression, competition with cash crop, soil quality.
- Habitat diversity in arable and perennial (olive) cropping systems: interactions between field margin complex structure, vegetation composition, insect pests and natural enemies. Effects on potential in-field weed reduction and biological pest control, and on trade-offs between these two agroecological services.
- Participatory research in sub-Sharan agricultural and agroforestry systems: (i) effect on species and management diversity on soil quality preservation (case study: Ethiopia); (ii) introduction of cover crop (Stylosanthes guianensis) to improve weed suppression in no-till rainfed rice systems (case study: Madagascar); (iii) empowerment of farmers capacity to increase sustainability through valuation and use of agrobiodiversity in agroforestry systems based on shea (karité; Vitellaria paradoxa), millet, sorghum and niébé (Vigna unguiculata) (case study: Mali).
- Agrobiodiversity and arbuscular mycorrhyzal fungi (AMF): (i) effect of genetic diversity (maize and tomato) and species diversity (cover crops, inoculated AMF) on cash crop growth, yield and quality and on soil quality; (ii) interactions between AMF, weeds, cash crops (maize) and cover crops.
- Conservation agriculture in organic and low-input arable and vegetable systems: effect of reduced- and zero tillage, cover crops and their species and functional diversity on cash crop yield, soil quality and weed suppression.
- Development of a weed functional traits database to (i) predict weed community dynamics as related to agroecosystem management and (ii) evaluate their potential provision of agroecological services and disservices.
- Dynamics of weed flora and vegetation as related to agricultural abandonment and urban sprawl at landscape level (case study: maize).
- Development of indicator systems to evaluate agronomic, environmental, socio-economic, and global sustainability in organic arable (livestock and stockless) and vegetable cropping systems. Case studies: (a) organic beef farm of the San Rossore Estate (Regional Natural Park of Migliarino-San Rossore-Massaciuccoli, Tuscany), (b) organic vagetable pilot farms in various Italian regions; (c) group of mountain livestock farmers in transition towards agroecological management (Giudicarie Valley, Trento, Northern Italy).
Weed ecology and management
- Analysis and dynamics of weed vegetation and seedbank (weed community structure and dynamics, species diversity/dominance patterns, functional groups) in organic and low-input arable and vegetable cropping systems.
- Comparison among different methodologies for weed seedbank analysis (seed extraction vs seedling emergence).
- Weed seed germination and seedling early growth as related to (i) biometric and morphological traits (e.g. seed weight and colour), environmental factors (light, temperature, stratification), management factors (e.g. presence of potentially allelopathic crop/cover crop residues, presence of AMF).
- Development of Integrated Weed Management Systems with an agroecological approach, through the combination of preventive, cultural and direct methods.
- Preventive methods: (i) green manure crops and their species and/or cultivar mixtures, (ii) (dead) mulches: physical, chemical (allelopathy) and biological effects; (iii) use of soil amendments (e.g. compost); (iv) crop rotation/sequence optimization; (v) thermal methods (e.g. soil solarization, soil steaming with activating compounds).
- Cultural methods: increase of crop competitive ability through (i) competitive cultivars and/or cultivar mixtures, (ii) living mulches, (iii) crop spatial arrangement, (iv) timing and placement of mineral nitrogen fertilizers.
- Direct methods: (i) mechanical weed control (spring-tine harrow, precision hoe, torsion weeder), (ii) thermal weed control (flame-weeding).
Long-term organic and low-input arable cropping system experiments at field scale
- Effects on crop yield, resource use efficiency, resistance and resilience, energy efficiency, soil quality (physical and chemical characteristics, soil organic matter dynamics), weed suppression and community shifts, gross margins, and other agri-environmental parameters:
- MASCOT (Mediterranean Arable Systems COmparison Trial). Comparison between conventional and organic management for a 5-yr arable crop rotation (start: 2000).
- CIMAS (Conventional vs Integrated Management System). Comparison between conventional and integrated management for a 6-yr arable crop rotation (1993-2006).
- COVER CROP. Comparison between four cover crops, two tillage systems (ploughing vs reduced tillage) and four mineral nitrogen rates in a low-input 4-yr arable crop rotation.
- MABRO (MAize-Based ROtations). Comparison between different 2-yr and 3-yr maize-based conventional arable crop rotations with three mineral nitrogen rates.
First Agroecology Europe Forum, Lyon (FR), 25-27 October 2017. Read the synopses of sessions and workshops at www.agroecology-europe.org and watch the video!