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 by breaking current rotations, by involving economic organisms and scientists and by integrating farmers to make changes in cropping systems work. Crop diversification was claimed as being a solution for deeper changes.
What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the case study?
In 2008, CRA-PDL launched an innovative cropping systems experiment to reduce the use of inputs.
The project tested one innovative cropping system compared to a local reference. Many innovative practices have been introduced in the innovative modality except for crop diversification. Objectives have not been reached as changes in the innovative system have not improved economic robustness to the system and have led to higher damages on crops than expected.
It concluded in 2014 on three conditions to reduce the use of inputs and improve cropping systems' economic and environmental sustainability in the area: breaking current rotations, involving economic organisms and scientists, and, of course, integrating farmers to make changes in cropping systems work.
The case study was initiated from these conclusions by 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.
How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
Currently, farmers groups steered by the local Chambre of Agriculture are interested in the goal of improving economic robustness in their systems. Sharing the conclusions of the previous experiment, the need to diversify rotation was claimed.
Those groups seem to be favourable places to foster the collaborative dynamic with other actors as local 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.
It has been obvious that deeper changes have to be introduced to make the system more robust to economic and climatic hazards.
Crop diversification will first be improved by taking advantage of existing value chains (such as pulse crops, hemp, alfalfa, and others) and also by developing new local value chains. There will be a specific attention paid to the agronomic context and environmental constraints in order to foster the natural regulation of pests, diseases, and weeds and limit damages in a low-pesticides strategy, increase soil fertility, and limit the use of mineral fertilizers.
Improve the economic robustness of farms by taking advantage of local existing chain values or by developing new chain values and taking into account their environmental and agronomic context.
More broadly, 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 to scientists and education (with Esa Angers, Agro-Campus Ouest, and Inra).
The case study will contribute to designing diversified crop systems with a multi-actor approach.
- Aline Vandewalle, CRA-PDL, case study leader