Choosing cover crops to enhance ecological services in orchards: A multiple criteria and systemic approach applied to tropical areas
Conventional agriculture is based on a high level of chemical inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers, leading to serious environmental impacts, health risks and loss of biodiversity. Pesticide reduction is a priority for intensive agricultural systems such as orchards. Reintroducing biodiversity in single crop systems can enhance biological regulations, and contribute to reduce the use of chemicals and to provide additional services such as run-off and erosion control. In tropical wet areas, weed control is difficult to manage without herbicides especially when orchards are not located in easily mechanised areas and when labour force is costly. Cover plants can be easily introduced in orchards and could be efficient in weed control and other functions. Based on this assumption, we developed a specific approach for the choice of adapted cover plants in single crop orchards to control weeds and provide additional ecological services. The approach was undertaken on citrus orchards in the French West Indies.