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Keywords:

  • corn;
  • fungicides;
  • herbicides;
  • insecticides;
  • integrated pest management;
  • Zea mays

Abstract

Political efforts are made in the European Union (EU) to reduce pesticide use and to increase the implementation of integrated pest management (IPM). Within the EU project ENDURE, research priorities on pesticide reduction are defined. Using maize, one of the most important crops in Europe, as a case study, we identified the most serious weeds, arthropod pests, and fungal diseases as well as classes and amounts of pesticides applied. Data for 11 European maize growing regions were collected from databases, publications and expert estimates. Silage maize dominates in northern Europe and grain production in central and southern Europe. Crop rotations range from continuous growing of maize over several years to well-planned rotation systems. Weeds, arthropod pests and fungal diseases cause economic losses in most regions, even though differences exist between northern countries and central and southern Europe. Several weed and arthropod species cause increasing problems, illustrating that the goal of reducing chemical pesticide applications is challenging. Pesticides could potentially be reduced by the choice of varieties including genetically modified hybrids, cultural control including crop rotation, biological control, optimized application techniques for chemicals, and the development of more specific treatments. However, restrictions in the availability of alternative pest control measures, farm organization, and the training and knowledge of farmers need to be overcome before the adoption of environmentally friendly pest control strategies can reduce chemical pesticides in an economically competitive way. The complex of several problems that need to be tackled simultaneously and the link between different control measures demonstrates the need for IPM approaches, where pest control is seen in the context of the cropping system and on a regional scale. Multicriteria assessments and decision support systems combined with pest monitoring programs may help to develop region-specific and sustainable strategies that are harmonized within a EU framework.