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The overarching research question in CP5 is how crop diversification implemented at different temporal and spatial scales (extent and resolution) affects the multifunctional response of agroecosystems (e.g. in terms of crop growth, yield, input reduction, resource use and use efficiency and biodiversity). The possibilities and impacts of new technologies (esp. with respect to sensing and robotics) are evaluated from three perspectives: crop physiological, ecological (including soil and biodiversity) and technological.​

The development of new light-weight robotic field technology offers the possibility to considerably decrease field sizes, and to reshape field geometries, because the new machinery can potentially deal with variable field sizes, shapes and different crop species and do not require large rectangular fields. Crop management can therefore be adapted to exploit spatial heterogeneity of the growing conditions, in particular of the soil, thereby improving resource use efficiency and enhancing spatial and temporal crop diversity in the field. In CP5.2, spatio-temporal adapted management will focus on the choice of crop species and their spatial allocation and temporal sequences (rotations) as a function of soil heterogeneity, which also implies spatially heterogeneous crop management (e.g. tillage, sowing) including input regimes (e.g. with regard to fertilization and plant protection). However, it is currently unknown how these envisaged changes will affect the agroecosystem performance in terms of (a) competition and neighbour effects; (b) actual effects on adaptation, resource conservation and resource use efficiencies; (c) biotic interactions, e.g. with respect to plant disease epidemiology or biodiversity effects.

Connection with overall PhenoRob objectives:

CP5 is involved in the themes ROBSENSE, CROP, ECO, UPSCALE and mainly contributes to PhenoRob objectives by:

  • Application of new sensing techniques in innovative mixed and patched cropping systems.
  • Environmental and biodiversity monitoring in novel cropping systems.
  • Develop management suggestions for diversified cropping systems.


PhenoRob CP5.2 - New Field Arrangements

The use of agro-ecosystem models is an important tool to explore crop and ecosystems dynamics as they offer the flexibility in which we can explore system responses in a range of environments and management practices. Because of this, they can be used as a complementary tool to field arrangement experiments in the field.

Ixchel Hernandez-Ochoa, a postdoc at the University of Bonn is part of the CP5.2 project and her main objective is to develop and apply agro-ecosystem models using the SIMPLACE modeling framework, to explore the dynamics and impacts of diversified cropping systems adapted to spatial soil heterogeneities (e.g. patchy crops), on multifunctional agroecosystem performance and to further explore their impacts at local and regional scale.

The specific objectives of this project are: i) to develop and apply agro-ecosystem modelling tools to study the impacts of diversified cropping systems on ecosystem services and resource use efficiency, ii) To gain mechanistic insights into scale-dependent effects of crop diversification on agroecosystem performance and ii) To demonstrate and evaluate the possibilities of new digitally based technologies combined with crop modelling, remote sensing and machine learning to implement and manage sustainable new site-adapted field arrangements.




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