Pascal Xicluna /

In late February, a report was officially published laying out the guidelines of the priority research program titled “Cultivate and Protect Differently.” Announced in July of 2018, this program will research methods of building an agricultural system that is better for the environment and human health, and will be funded with 30 million euros coming from France’s third edition of its Investing in the Future Program. The report lays out a clear and ambitious roadmap so that the scientific community can come up with new alternative practices to using plant protection products in agriculture.

Scientific knowledge on cultivated plants, on their interactions with soil, with weed plants and with pests (insects, fungi, viruses), will be deepened and put to work in order to use more biodiversity tools to stimulate natural defense mechanisms at the level of plants, of agricultural parcels and of the entire countryside environment.

To complement the innovative research, the report calls for putting in place structuring tools. It is proposed, for example, that biosensors and artificial intelligence be brought together to monitor in real time the appearance and development of bioaggressors and in this way help in crop management. To help in transitioning toward agricultural practices without pesticides, reference infrastructure will also be developed or created to best characterize the exposure of agricultural workers and the population, and contribute to guaranteeing the innocuousness of substances that may be used in the place of the most worrisome pesticides.

Several ministries and public agencies will work with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research(INRA) and other public and private research institutions to identify, define and sequence the call for projects that will be launched in June of this year.

The scientific steering of the program will be handled by INRA on behalf of the entire French scientific community, drawing upon support from an international scientific community. The actions of the program will support national research initiatives and applied research aiming to reduce the use of pesticides, particularly through calls for projects dedicated to the subject from various French public agencies.