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Call: Agroecological approaches for sustainable weed management

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Programme
Acronym HORIZON-CL6-FARM2FORK
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 2: Fair, Healthy and Environmentally-friendly Food Systems from Primary Production to Consumption"

National, EU and global food systems are facing sustainability challenges, from primary production to consumption, that could jeopardise food and nutrition security. The farm to fork strategy, which is key to the success of the European Green Deal and achievement of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), aims to address these challenges and to deliver co-benefits for environment, health, society and the economy, ensuring that actions leading to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis also put us onto a sustainable path going forward. Research and innovation (R&I) are key drivers steering and accelerating the transition to sustainable, safe, healthy and inclusive food systems, from farm to fork, thereby ensuring food and nutrition security for all.

Sustainable farming systems provide a number of economic, environmental, social and health benefits, and are the main prerequisite for food and nutrition security. For farmers, who are the backbone of food systems and the immediate managers of natural resources, the Green Deal sets ambitious targets with respect to the sustainability and safety of feed and food production. These targets are included in the core Green Deal policy initiatives, in particular the farm to fork strategy, the biodiversity strategy, zero pollution efforts and climate action. R&I in line with the strategic approach to EU agricultural research and innovation[[https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/news/final-paper-strategic-approach-eu-agricultural-research-and-innovation]] will be key enablers if these challenging targets are to be achieved. They will speed up the transition to sustainable and competitive agriculture by unlocking the potential of agroecology[[http://www.fao.org/3/i9037en/i9037en.pdf]], including improving organic farming as part of the agroecological transition, boosting production of EU-grown plant proteins and advancing digital and data technologies (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’). R&I will support farmers to manage land, soil, water and nutrients in new, sustainable ways, in particular through the Horizon Europe mission in the area of ‘soil health and food’. New knowledge and innovative solutions will improve plant and animal health and welfare, prevent interspecies disease transmission through food production and trade systems, and reduce farmers’ dependency on pesticides, antimicrobials and other external inputs. Thanks to R&I, farming systems will maximise provision of a wide range of ecosystem services from more sustainably managed EU agro‑ecosystems and landscapes, and help to reverse the loss of biodiversity and soil fertility while ensuring resilient primary production (Destination ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’). Farmers will be better equipped to make a significant contribution to climate neutrality and become more resilient to climate change (Destination ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’). Also, R&I will support the development of policy (in particular the common agricultural policy (CAP)), business models and market conditions enabling transition to sustainable food and farming systems. Effective agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKISs) will speed up innovation and the uptake of R&I results from farm to fork (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’). As a result, farmers will be able to transform their production methods and move to climate- and environment‑friendly, and resilient farming systems, thereby contributing to sustainable food value chains that provide producers with fair economic returns and consumers with affordable, safe, healthy and sustainable food (Destinations ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’ and ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’).

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture contribute directly to environment‑friendly, inclusive, safe and healthy food production by providing highly nutritional proteins, lipids and micronutrients for a healthy diet. Sustainably produced food from marine and freshwater bodies can and should account for a much bigger proportion of our overall food consumption. The farm to fork strategy seeks to help fishers and aquaculture producers to achieve better climate and environmental results and to strengthen their position in the supply chain. R&I will directly support the common fisheries policy (CFP) and deliver inclusive, diversified approaches to allow fisheries management to adapt to different realities, including in the international context. Sustainable and resilient aquaculture systems, including the use of low trophic species (e.g. algae and herbivores), high animal welfare standards and alternative sources of protein for food and feed, will increase seafood production and reduce its environmental impact while adding economic value to the chain. Seafood security will benefit from a drastic reduction in the current massive pre- and post-harvest losses in seafood biomass. Producers’ and consumers’ awareness, trust and behaviour with respect to the responsible production, consumption and disposal of seafood will contribute directly to the competitiveness and sustainability of the sector. An overarching partnership for a climate‑neutral, sustainable and productive blue economy will contribute to food security, added value, blue growth and jobs in Europe through a jointly supported R&I programme in the European seas, coastal and inland waters.

Transforming food systems for health, sustainability and inclusion requires robust, system-wide changes at all governance levels (from local to global and vice versa) as food systems are intertwined with all other sectors and are among the key drivers of climate change and environmental degradation. Food systems are to be understood as covering all the sectors, actors, stakeholders, organisations and disciplines relevant to and connecting primary production from land and sea, food processing, food distribution and retailing, food services, food consumption, food safety, nutrition and public health, and food waste streams. The European Green Deal and, in particular, the farm to fork strategy support a shift to more resilient and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable food systems, as required to deliver safe, healthy, accessible and affordable food and diets for all sourced from land and sea, while respecting planetary boundaries. This will involve a better understanding of the multiple interactions between the components of current food systems, to foster solutions that maximise co-benefits with respect to the four priorities of the Commission’s ‘Food 2030’ R&I initiative:

  • nutrition and health, including food safety;
  • climate and environmental sustainability;
  • circularity and resource efficiency; and
  • innovation and empowering communities.

R&I will accelerate the transition to sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems by delivering in various areas: dietary shifts towards sustainable and healthy nutrition; supply of alternative and plant-based proteins; prevention and reduction of food loss and waste; microbiome applications; improving food safety and traceability; fighting food fraud; behavioural change; personalised nutrition; urban food systems (Destination ‘Resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities’); food systems governance and systems science; and digital and data-driven innovation (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’).

R&I activities supporting the partnership for safe and sustainable food systems for people, planet and climate will help identify and deliver innovative solutions providing co-benefits for nutrition, food quality, the climate, circularity and communities.

The EU also aims to promote a global transition to sustainable food systems. Targeted R&I activities, in particular under the EU-Africa Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) and global initiatives involving international research consortia, will contribute to this ambition.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out credible pathways to fair, healthy, safe, climate- and environment‑friendly, resilient food systems from primary production to consumption, ensuring food and nutrition security for all within planetary boundaries in the EU and globally.

More specifically, proposals should contribute to one or more of the following impacts:

  • sustainable, productive, climate-neutral and resilient farming systems providing consumers with affordable, safe, traceable healthy and sustainable food, while minimising pressure on ecosystems, restoring and enhancing biodiversity, improving public health and generating fair economic returns for farmers;
  • sustainable fisheries and aquaculture increasing aquatic biomass production, diversification and consumption of seafood products for fair, healthy, climate‑resilient and environment‑friendly food systems with low impact on aquatic ecosystems and high animal welfare; and
  • sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems delivering co-benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation, environmental sustainability and circularity, sustainable healthy nutrition, safe food consumption, food poverty reduction, the inclusion of marginalised people, the empowerment of communities, and flourishing businesses.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle[[See Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation).]], whereby R&I projects should not support or involve activities that significantly undermine any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

To unlock the full potential of R&I and maximise impacts, participatory approaches, e.g. multi-actor approach, involving input from industry, technology providers, primary producers, the food, drink and hospitality industry, consumers, citizens, local authorities, etc. should be promoted with a view to co-creating innovative systemic solutions in support of food systems’ sustainability.

Topics under this destination should have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024:

  • sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea
  • climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters;
  • good health and high-quality accessible healthcare;
  • clean and healthy air, water and soil;
  • a resilient EU prepared for emerging threats; and
  • inclusive growth and new job opportunities.
Link Link to Programme
Call
Agroecological approaches for sustainable weed management
Description of call
"Agroecological approaches for sustainable weed management"

Expected Outcome:

A successful proposal should support the farm to fork’s strategy objective of a transition to a fair, healthy and resilient European agriculture, notably its objective to promote agroecology, and the target to reduce the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides, by unfolding the potential of agroecology to provide alternative weeding strategies that reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides used as herbicides. This will support the transition to sustainable, safe, productive, climate-neutral and resilient farming systems that minimise the pressure on ecosystems while ensuring fair economic returns for farmers.

Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Evidence of optimal and innovative combinations of holistic alternative weeding techniques based on agroecological approaches in different European pedo-climatic conditions for a wide range of crops and farming systems, including conventional, organic and mixed farming;
  • Quantitative and qualitative evidence of the social, economic and environmental sustainability and performance, as well as trade-offs, of different alternative weeding strategies across Europe at farm, landscape and regional levels, and in the medium to long term;
  • Robust evidence of factors influencing farmers’ decision-making and improved knowledge co-creation and feedback among actors in the food value chain, resulting in ease of use, end-user acceptance and increased implementation of alternative and holistic weeding strategies based on an integrated use of agroecological approaches;
  • Improved, open access to data on current weed management practices and use of herbicides across several representative European agro-ecosystems.

Scope:

Herbicides have become the foundation of weed management in EU farming systems. Given that herbicides can have harmful effects on the environment, non-target organisms, and animal and human health, reducing reliance on these products has become a policy objective. Sustainable and effective non-chemical alternatives to reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides are largely lacking for most crops and farming systems in the EU. Weed-related challenges can be better addressed as a part of broad-based, holistic strategies such as agroecology that, by relying on and maximising the use of ecological processes to support agricultural production, have the potential to advance ecosystem sustainability while ensuring profitability of the farming activity. Agroecology is a holistic approach that relies on and maximises the use of ecological processes to support agricultural production. By working more with nature and ecosystem services, agroecology has the potential to increase the circularity, diversification and autonomy of farms, and drive a full transformation of farming systems, from input substitution and beyond. In parallel, progressing towards digitalisation or the implementation of new digital technologies is one of the main ambitions facing EU agriculture. The development and promotion of alternative weed management techniques and strategies that do not only rely on chemical herbicides are required. Moreover, factors such as soil and climatic conditions, as well as the type of crop and the farming system can largely determine the spatial and temporal development of major weeds and, therefore, the effectiveness and efficiency of these strategies. Agroecological or nature-based principles can provide systemic, sustainable, context-specific and socially acceptable alternatives to address these challenges.

Activities should advance knowledge, build capacities and deliver innovative systemic and holistic solutions to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of chemical pesticides used as herbicides, and will address the needs of a wide range of crops (arable and permanent) and farming systems, both conventional and organic. Proposals should cover all EU and Associated Countries biogeographical/pedo-climatic regions. Proposals must implement the ‘multi-actor approach’ and should build on and expand the achievements of relevant past and ongoing EU-funded research projects.

Proposals should include a clear plan on how they will collaborate with other projects funded under this topic. Projects should ensure collaboration with projects funded under the following topics in this work programme: HORIZON-CL6-2021-CLIMATE-01-05: Agroecological approaches for climate change mitigation, resilient agricultural production and enhanced biodiversity and HORIZON-CL6-2021-FARM2FORK-01-03: Digitalisation as an enabler of agroecological farming systems. Proposals should identify optimal combinations of agroecological solutions for socially, economically and environmentally sustainable alternative weed management strategies that reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides. They should do so by capitalising on the opportunities offered by cropping system design, mechanical weed management techniques, soil management practices, breeding, bio-based herbicides, precision and site-specific weeding and digitalised weed monitoring, including by using technology and knowledge of weed biology. Proposals should test and evaluate the sustainability, performance and profitability of these strategies versus classical chemical weed management approaches in the medium- to long-term and at farm, landscape and regional levels, undertaking qualitative and quantitative estimates of trade-offs, and identifying gaps and needs towards non-chemical weed management. Proposals should undertake comprehensive analysis of the socio-economic aspects involved in the adoption of alternative weeding strategies based on agroecological approaches and of the factors influencing farmers’ decision-making, including consumer and market aspects, like risk perception and acceptance of food produced with new weed management strategies. Proposals should develop and test strategies involving all relevant actors for knowledge co-creation and feedback to demonstrate and accompany farmers in implementing and/or switching to agroecological weed management. Proposals should develop a repository of current weed management practices and use of herbicides in several representative EU and Associated Countries agro-ecosystems.

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Administration & Governance, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Consumer Protection, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Competitiveness, SME
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Research Institution, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), NGO / NPO, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, Public Services, National Government, International Organization, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), Start Up Company, Education and Training Centres
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system
This call is subject of a two-stage procedure. In the first stage, applicants will be requested to submit only an outline application.

Page limit - part B: 45 pages - The limit for a first-stage application is 10 pages.
Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 5.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 14.50 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

The proposals must use the multi-actor approach.
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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