From innovative system experiments in the area, three major conclusions were drawn to reduce the use of inputs and to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of cropping systems:
- breaking current rotations,
- involving all actors along the value chain as well as scientists, and
- integrating farmers to make changes in cropping systems work.
Crop diversification was seen as a solution for deeper changes.
What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the case study?
In the area, the need to diversify is really important. Cereal producers have to change their rotations to include more sustainable crops (such as leguminous plants) and to make them more financially viable. For breeders, the problem is the dependency on the global market, which pushes them to purchase soya from Brazil for instance, with a really high carbon impact and other hazardous effects.
The case study was initiated based on these conclusions by the Chambre Régionale d’Agriculture des Pays de la Loire (CRA-PDL) in 2016, during the first meetings with the French partners of the DiverIMPACTS consortium. This case study focuses on a new value chain: selling between farmers. This new value chain needs to be tested to determine the advantages and disadvantage for farmers, but also for the territory. In order for it to be successful, farmers also need to be able to engage and develop connections with a broad network of actors throughout the territory. The case study aims to address these issues.
How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
Currently, farmers groups steered by the local Chamber of Agriculture are interested in the goal of improving the economic robustness in their systems. Based on previous experiments, it was determined that there is a need to diversify the rotations. The main problem with diversification was to find a value chain that is economically viable.
The case study serves to foster the collaborative dynamic between farmers and other actors, such as advisors from local and regional chambers of agriculture, technical institutes, and farmer groups. Economic issues are the main motivation for the actors involved in the case study. The case study aims to involve a number of local actors, such as the water agency and companies from Vendée.
It has become obvious that deeper changes need to be introduced to make the system more robust to economic and climatic hazards.
Specific attention will be paid to the agronomic context and environmental constraints in order to foster the natural regulation of pests, diseases, and weeds and to implement a low-pesticides strategy, increase soil fertility, and limit the use of mineral fertilizers. That’s why the Chambre d’Agriculture des Pays de la Loire is part of this project; to aid farmers in this diversification by giving them advice.
Moreover, there is a desire to increase sales between farmers, by enlarging the group to include other farmers who want to diversify. That’s why the advisors from the Chambre d’Agriculture have developed, for example, an initiative called “bouts de champs”, which includes meetings with farmers in order to hear from them and talk about diversification on the field. The initiative also aims to find indicators to demonstrate to farmers the benefits of diversification and that local sales will help spread those practices in the area.
It is expected that the case study will improve the economic robustness of farms by taking advantage of local existing value chains or by developing new value chains and by taking into account their environmental and agronomic contexts.
With the help of other Work Packages, we will analyse identified indicators to determine the benefits of diversification in the area of the case study. We will also find drivers that have pushed farmers to participate in exchanges and identify what worked and what did not in order to support new farmers that want to change their rotation.
These results will help to communicate, and to enhance the exchange of common issues, experiments, and solutions between the case studies and find appropriate tools and methods to mobilize different actors and scale out the case study to a larger area.
Relevance to the DiverIMPACTS goals?
The DiverIMPACTS project design gives the opportunity to accelerate the case study dynamic and to expand it by including scientists and education institutions (e.g., ESA Angers, Agro-Campus Ouest, and INRAE).
The case study will contribute designing diversified crop systems with a multi-actor approach, and to develop the exchanges in the area.
- Jérémy Berthomier, APCA, case study leader
- Emmanuel Mérot, APCA, case study monitor
- Video about the case study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfFWdVo_Tz8