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PhenoRob CP5.2 - New Field Arrangements

New spatial field arrangements for sustainable agriculture: exploring crop diversification at landscape scale by considering soil heterogeneities

The development of new light-weight robotic field technology in the future, offers the possibility to considerably decrease field sizes, and to reshape field geometries, because the new machinery can potentially deal with variable field sizes, shapes and different crop species and do not require large rectangular fields. Crop management, such as crop species selection and input regimes (e.g. crop protection, resource inputs and cultural management), can therefore be adapted to make better use of spatial heterogeneity of the growing conditions, in particular of the soil conditions, thereby improving resource use efficiency and enhancing spatial and temporal crop diversity in the field. However, it is currently unknown how these envisaged changes will affect the agroecosystem performance in terms of i) competition and neighbor effects; i) actual effects on resource conservation, resource use efficiencies and ecosystem services; iii) biotic interactions, e.g. with respect to plant disease epidemiology or biodiversity effects. The use of agro-ecosystem models is an important tool to explore crop and ecosystems dynamics as they offer the flexibility in which we can explore system responses in a range of environments and management practices. And because of this, they can be used as a complementary tool to field arrangement experiments in the field.

Therefore, the objective of CP5.2 is to combine field experimentation and modeling approaches to explore how different spatial crop arrangements adapted to spatial soil heterogeneities affect the multifunctional response of agroecosystems (e.g. in terms of crop growth, yield, input reduction, resource use and use efficiency and biodiversity), and how they can contribute to a more sustainable and resilient agriculture.
The specific objectives of this project are:
i) to develop and apply agro-ecosystem modelling tools to study the impacts of diversified cropping systems on ecosystem services and resource use efficiency,
ii) To gain mechanistic insights into scale-dependent effects of crop diversification on agroecosystem performance and
iii) To demonstrate and evaluate the possibilities of new digitally based technologies combined with crop modelling, remote sensing and machine learning to implement and manage sustainable new site-adapted field arrangements.


Persons in charge: Dr. Frank Ewert, Dr. Thomas Gaiser
Post-Doc: Dr. Ixchel M. Hernandez-Ochoa


Runtime: 2020 - 2025


Funding: DFG
Cooperating partner:
Cluster of Excellence “PhenoRob – Robotics and Phenotyping for Sustainable Crop Production” of the University of Bonn, Spokespersons: Prof. Dr. Cyrill Stachniss, Photogrammetry and Prof. Dr. Heiner Kuhlmann, Geodesy, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, , see  

Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF). Scientific coordinator: Dr. Kathrin Grahmann
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany


Ixchel Hernandez-Ochoa: New Field Arrangements for Sustainable Agriculture: Improving and Extending Crop Models to Explore Agro-ecosystem Dynamics. The International Conference on Digital Technologies for Sustainable Crop Production (DIGICROP), November 1-10, 2020, Bonn, Germany.


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