, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 463-473
Date: 16 Feb 2011

Farmers’ fears and agro-economic evaluation of sown grass strips in France

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Since 2005, French farmers must set up sown grass strips along rivers in order to decrease pesticide levels and soil erosion. Farmers have thus parcelled out their fields, set aside 3% of their farm size and managed grass without herbicide. Consequently, this environmental policy may cause farmers’ fears due to economic losses and weed infestations of their field margins. Here, we studied farmers’ perception of sown grass strips. First, we interviewed 29 farmers in two French regions. Second, we evaluated the economic loss of gross margin when replacing crop by grass. Third, we evaluated the weed risk using flora surveys in sown grass strips. Our results showed that two thirds of interviewed farmers thought that sown grass strips affected their farm revenue and represented a weed risk. Concerning economy, we found that farmers loose from 358 to 853€/ha the year of installation and from 126 to 641€/ha next years. This economic loss is mainly due to the loss of crop production, with a minor impact of grass management cost. At the farm level, 3% of sown grass strips decreased the farm revenue by 7%. Concerning the weed risk, the farmers’ perception was linked with the presence of some competitive perennial weeds, e.g. Cirsium arvense, and wind-dispersing weeds, e.g. Asteraceae. Sown grass strips with high weed species richness of 26 species on average, or with dominance of non-sown species (16.7% of sown grass strips) did not affect the farmers’ perception. In our study, the economic loss was weak and acceptable at the farm level.

Selected article from the International Conference on Weed Biology, Dijon, France, 2009.