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The INTERREG-DEVAG project : a regional network for the development of agroecological cropping systems for horticultural crops in the Carribbean

Fernandes P., Lavigne C., Rhino B., Langlais C., Deberdt P., Diédhiou S., Ratnadass A., Jannoyer M., Malézieux E., Filloux D.. 2011. In : Benkeblia Noureddine (ed.). Proceedings of the First International symposium on tropical horticulture, Kingston, Jamaica, November 22-26, 2010. Louvain : ISHS [Belgique], p. 147-151. (Acta Horticulturae, 894). International Society for Horticultural Science.

In our Caribbean islands, increasing local food production and reducing the negative impacts of agricultural practices are major concerns, especially in view of the most recent food crisis and the rising costs of imported food products and agricultural inputs. In this context, horticultural crops are the main target of the social demand to get access to safe, healthy and environmentally friendly products. Furthermore, horticultural products are an important source of income for small farmers. But currently these crops are still requiring highly intensive chemical input application (fertilizers, pesticides) due to strong biotic constraints (bacteria, viruses, insects...) amplified by abiotic conditions (heat, humidity). It has become necessary to consider a radical change in production methods to move towards environmentally friendly systems and offering healthy products to producers and consumers, while valorizing biological resources already present in these fragile ecosystems though rich in biodiversity. The objectives of the DEVAG project are (i) to develop scientific databases to accelerate the development of agroecological and organic horticultural productions and (ii) to create a regional network dedicated to the development of agroecology for fruits and vegetables in the Caribbean. To do so, research activities focus on the development of agroecological methods to manage insects, diseases and weeds. These pests represent the main cause of loss of productivity and increase of pesticides use. Nevertheless, in order to build integrated cropping systems adoptable in our environments, research also encompass: (i) substitution of chemical fertilizers with local organic resources, (ii) selection of cultivars adapted to low-input systems, (iii) crop-livestock integration and (iv) characterization of socio-economic determinants of technical innovations. These research activities are conducted in permanent connection with farmers and agricultural development agents who will benefit directly by participating in field experiments and technical field schools.

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