On June 11, Marion Guillou presented a report about agroecology to the French Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Guillou is the current Chair of Agreenium, a French consortium of research and higher education organizations on agronomic and veterinary research. Her presentation identified the means necessary to design production systems for French agriculture that are both competitive and sustainable.
To carry out the research needed for her report, Guillou and her team analyzed current initiatives and projects linked to agroecology in sectors such as farming, retail, and food industry, both in France and abroad. By pinpointing these projects, Guillou was able to study innovative ideas about organic farming, precision farming, integrated plant protection, and agroforestry.
According to the resulting report, current high commodity prices on grain and oilseed encourage farmers to shorten and simplify their crop-rotating systems. These prices also encourage farmers to specialize production, create bigger farms, and switch from livestock production to field crops. The report also stresses the urgency of creating incentives for farmers to cultivate with a double objective: environment and economy.
In the specific case of field crops, the report gives technical advice about combining environmental and economic challenges:
– Plant intermediate crops that provide ground cover during winter months to limit the erosion of nutrients
– Adapt the order in which the crops are planted to preserve water supply
– Plant legumes in association with other crops to trap nitrates
– Increase and diversify the number of crops in the crop rotating system
– Use genetics to improve plant varieties that are more resistant to pests
The report points out that implementing such measures require more work and advanced agricultural knowledge, which farmers may not find favorable. It is then critical to turn the focus of education in agriculture toward agroecological objectives. Both public and private institutes that give advice to farmers must spread agroecological principles to a greater number of farmers.
The Economic and Environmental Interest Group (GIEE), a new initiative launched by the government to gather stakeholders from the fields of research, industry and education, could enhance this dialogue.
The need to share economic and technical data on innovative and sustainable systems is also key. The report proposes that a French rural development program held by the ministry of agriculture known as CASDAR become the platform to gather and share data on agroecology.