Imathia is an area of highly intensive agriculture, located in the Region of Central Macedonia in Northern Greece, corresponding to the 1.3% of the territory and the 1.45% of the total agricultural land of the country. Tree crops cover 41% of its overall cultivated lands; peach and nectarine crops corresponds to the 74% of its land covered with tree plantations.
The peach production in Imathia is organized by cooperatives with significant share in the global market of canned peaches. The cooperatives, responding to the competition and consumers’ increasing demand for protecting the environment and public health, adopted the Integrated Pest Management principles and in this framework introduced the method of mating disruption (sexual confusion) of insects by installing a network of micro sprayers across their fields. The implementation of the method implied challenges for the advisory organizations operating in the area, which constituted the reason for its selection as a focus region within the framework of the Agrilink project.
The study focusses on the collaboration among the local cooperatives and private advisory companies – especially the leading one – to introduce and disseminate the innovation of mating disruption (MD) of insects among the numerous smallholders of the focus-area.
The success of the IPM system was based on the involvement of local, private sector, independent advisors -instead of the public agricultural services- organizing fast-paced specialized seminars for farmers. However, in the case of MD the involved independent advisors had not only to deal with challenges at a technical level but to enhance trust and collaboration among producers in order to facilitate such an innovation as well. Additionally, the local input suppliers, comprising an integral part of the local AKIS, were confronted with the challenge to adapt their approach and services to the needs of peach producers’ groups. The importance of the input shops for the MD lies in their number and proximity to individual farmers, particularly those that are not members of cooperatives. Input companies contributed to the adaptation of the innovation by providing technological support and materials at the very initial stage; a public research institute and the local authorities complete the landscape of the regional AKIS in Imathia albeit without playing a major role in the innovation process.
Overall, the role of private advisors was crucial since they supported farmers at all the stages of the innovation disseminating valuable knowledge through in person contacts and seminars. However, the flow of information to farmers could be improved given that the number of advisors activated was not enough to cover the needs. One the other hand, it was recognized as well that farmers’willingness to participate in the seminars was related to the influence the local cooperatives exerted on them.
Furthermore, the leading independent advisory company, i.e. the first who were actively involved in the introduction of the idea and practice of MD, played a significant, indirect role in the dissemination of the innovation through the provision of information and documentation data to the relevant national authorities. This resulted in the inclusion of the method in the agri-environmental measures (National Rural Development Programme), contributing to the creation of an institutional environment enabling farmers to adopt the innovation.
Eventually, it is noticed that the involvement of other actors in the endorsement of the innovation was poor, and the links between the local /regional AKIS actors remain rather weak.
Agricultural University of Athens
Agricultural University of Athens (AUA) is the third oldest university in Greece with significant contribution in the agricultural and economic development of the country. The Laboratory of Agricultural Extension, Agricultural Systems & Rural Sociology, which is involved in the Agrilink project, has long experience in EU and national projects on advisory services, extension education and innovation, including the projects PRO AKIS and Agrispin.