Main research question
The GOMEROS-project investigated how growing vegetables and maize can be successfully done under the new erosion regulations (Pillar I of the CAP), so that crop yield and quality are maintained while erosion is also effectively controlled. The mandatory anti-erosion measures have become stricter for plots with a very high (purple) and high (red) erosion risk since 2014. Farmers must choose measures from four packages. The Gomeros project focused on cultivation techniques that reduce erosion on-site, such as non-inversion tillage, strip-till and ridges. Upon farmers’ suggestions, also measures that were not on the official list yet, such as broadcast sowing of maize, were investigated.
Our research approach involved farmers, professional organizations, producer associations, equipment manufacturers and policy makers. Bottlenecks for the application of erosion-reducing cultivation techniques were discussed with them and together solutions and innovations were sought. Every year, some eight field trials were carried out among farmers spread over the erosion-sensitive areas in Flanders. At the end of the growing season, the examined techniques were evaluated according to feasibility of crop husbandry, crop yield and erosion-reducing capacity (via e.g. rain simulations). Remaining bottlenecks were listed and possible solutions were examined in the following year, creating a participatory innovation cycle.
The insights obtained were translated into practical crop and technique fact sheets for farmers. These fact sheets summarise which techniques are effective against erosion, what the impact is on crop yield, what is feasible and what the good practices are when applying these techniques. The field trial results were described in detail in annual reports for policy makers, researchers and sector organisations. In the final report, an overall analysis was made of the results for the crop types maize, vegetables on ridges, sown flat field vegetables (pea, onion) and planted flat field vegetables (cabbages, celery). This final report also contains policy recommendations.