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Cultivation practices in the Seine-Normandy region in a database

ARSEINE is a database that describes the evolution of dominant farming systems over the past 50 years at the scale of the Seine-Normandy hydrographic basin. Coupled with modelling tools, this database is being used to understand the long-term environmental impact of agricultural practices at the scale of a major region. 

Representation of diversified indicators on the Seine-Normandy basin
Updated on 03/28/2019
Published on 01/23/2019

A tool that can be integrated in the regulatory context

In the context of applying the Water Framework Directive (WFD) of 23 October 2000 (European Directive 2000/60), the six water agencies that cover mainland France implement regular updates of their inventories of water bodies, data that are necessary to prepare multiyear management and action plans regarding the preservation of water resources (Water Development and Management Master Plan).   
For nearly 20 years, and within this regulatory context, the Seine-Normandy Water Agency and INRA’s ASTER Mirecourt Research Unit have been collaborating in work on the presence in aquifers of various contaminants of agricultural origin, and notably nitrates. At an early stage, it was agreed that simply describing the use of agricultural land was insufficient to understand changes to water quality. The partners therefore decided to set up a database to enable the detailed characterisation of cropping systems and their evolution at the scale of different areas in the hydrographic basin over a long period of time.

A tool built using data from the field

The ARSEINE database has been built using data from agricultural statistics (agricultural censuses from 1970 to 2010, surveys on cultivation practices between 2006 and 2011, surveys on TerUti and TerUti Lucas land occupation) supplemented with the results of surveys completed by more than 120 experts in agriculture (Chambers of Agriculture, technical institutes, etc.). These data concern crop sequences and management practices (fertilisation, soil tillage, irrigation, intercrops, sowing and harvesting, yields, etc.).  
Initial processing of these data enabled the regional determination of land use in spatially homogeneous units called Agricultural Modelling Units (AMU). The second stage focused on describing the different cropping systems in each AMU and how they changed, based on crop rotations and their associated management practices.

A tool for the spatiotemporal restitution of farming practices

ARSEINE is able to characterise, date and situate a variety of cropping systems. Each cropping system is characterised by its crop sequence (in chronological order) and its associated management practices (soil tillage, organic and mineral nitrogen fertilisation, irrigation, etc.).   
These data are aggregated and integrated to construct different indicators (mean nitrogen fertilisation, mean crop surface area, etc.) which may be presented in the form of maps or graphics (see illustration).
The ARSEINE database covers 95 AMU, 4576 crop sequences and 3155 management practices concerning 24 different crops (including grassland systems). 

A tool that can be used to test different scenarios

ARSEINE is equipped with a module which means that its data is compatible for use by modelling tools such as STICS (see insert). Collaborative efforts are currently under way by two INRA research units (Research Unit on Agro-resources and Environmental Impact - AgroImpact and Infosol) that are contributing their knowledge and skills with respect to water and nitrogen flows in agrosystems and descriptive parameters on soils, respectively. With support from Mines ParisTech, modelling tools have been created to evaluate the transfer of nitrates to aquifers. This work has enabled the development of scenarios for agricultural nitrate pollution at the scale of the Seine-Normandy basin during the period 2014 - 2050 and, more generally, to reconstitute the quantitative and qualitative evolution of ground water in this basin as they relate to farming practices under a climate change model. ARSEINE could also be used for similar studies attempting to link nitrogen flows (soil-water-atmosphere) to farming practices at the scale of a major region.
Access to the data can be requested through the INRA engineers (contact details below). The data can be used by actors in both the public sector (Regional Council, Chambers of Agriculture, Regional Directorates (DRAAF), etc.) and private sector (consultants, etc.).

Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Science for Action and Development
Associated Centre(s):
Grand Est - Nancy

Find out more

For more information on ARSEINE (Regional Database on Agriculture in the Seine-Normandy basin -Base de données Agricole Régionalisée sur le bassin SEIne-NormandiE)   
This tool, developed between 2014 and 2017, forms part of more general efforts under the cross-disciplinary PIREN SEINE research programme on water and the environment in the Seine basin.

Logo de Stics (Simulateur multidisciplinaire pour les cultures standard), un modèle de culture dynamique, générique et robuste permettant de simuler le système sol-atmosphère-culture, reconnu internationalement.. © INRA


The STICS model (multidisciplinary simulator for standard crops, or simulateur multidisciplinaire pour les cultures standard) has been developed by INRA since 1996. At the plot scale, it can model the growth of one crop, associated crops or crop sequences as a function of numerous agronomic parameters: climate, soil and farming practices. It has served as a basis for numerous other integrative models.  It is available free of charge via the website of the Agroclim Research Unit (Avignon). Used by hundreds of people to date (mainly for research and teaching purposes) it can also be implemented by agricultural consultants.