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Joint Technology Units (UMT) involving INRA in 2019

Joint Technology Units (UMT) involving INRA in 2019

UMT SI-BIO: for organic food and horticultural systems

Fruits and vegetables play an important role in our diets. These crops face major ecological challenges because of their considerable use of inputs, especially artificial ones. The challenge for the UMT SI-BIO is to support the transition to organics of these food and horticultural systems.

Updated on 03/29/2019
Published on 01/17/2019

Etal d'un marché biologique. © INRA, C. Maitre
© INRA, C. Maitre

Towards agrifood and horticultural systems with lower environmental impact

Virtuous systems with a low ecological impact, of which organic farming is a model, are expected by the society. In 2017, the share of organic products in the fresh fruit and vegetable market reached 9.6% in value terms and 7.3% in volume. The interdependence of food and agricultural systems justifies combined efforts to support their transition towards sustainability.
The Mediterranean basin is exemplary of all these sustainability challenges, whether at agricultural, food or even regional level, associated with the risks raised by the increased scarcity of the resources (water and soil).
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) is the leading French region for the production of fruits (32,800 ha, 10,061 ha of which is olive growing) and fresh vegetables (8013 ha), and also the region with the largest share of UAA farmed organically (19.4% in 2017). Avignon area concentrates both organic production and research and development resources, thus justifying the location of the UMT SI-BIO. The ecosystem of actors involved in this UMT spreads to neighbouring Departments such as Drôme and Bouches-du-Rhône.

Understanding, co-designing, evaluating and developing innovative organic horticultural systems in synergy

The UMT SI-Bio project is managed by ITAB, the French Research Institute for Organic Farming. It aims to clarify the multi-performance of organic systems, particularly in horticulture, and to favour the transition and reconfiguration of organic agrifood systems in different regions.
To achieve this, the UMT has given itself four objectives:

  • Translate and anticipate the impact of the growth and development of organic methods on the functioning of agroecosystems: analysis of the functioning and management of organic horticultural agrosystems;
  • Design, evaluate and analyse the dynamics of organic horticultural systems: production of jointly designed methods and tools to support ecological paradigms;
  • Improve performance: generate knowledge on and expertise in agroecological levers and how these could be implemented;
  • Support development: study of transitions, conditions and dynamics.

These objectives will be addressed at spatial scales ranging from the plot to the region, taking into account the evolutions over time. The UMT SI-BIO will focus on natural regulations as the preferred lever for the health of organic systems. Diversity will be the main lever and study object at several levels: floral biodiversity and the diversity of resources and systems within different regions.
All this work will be carried out in synergy within the regional R&D ecosystem. The results will be disseminated and exploited at a national scale.

The actors

The project has been accredited for 5 years (2019-2023).
It is being managed by the French Research Institute for Organic Farming, ITAB.
INRA is the only research institution involved in the project.
The other partners are:

  • The Organic Agriculture Research Group (Le Groupe de Recherche en Agriculture Biologique), GRAB,
  • The Organic Farming Regional Federation (Fédération régionale d’Agriculture Biologique –Bio) for Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur,
  • The Regional Chamber of Agriculture (Chambre Régionale d’Agriculture) for PACA
  • The Provence Association for Vegetable Research and Experimentation (Association Provençale de Recherche et d’Expérimentation Légumière), APREL.