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CA-SYS: a collaborative platform for experimentation in agroecology

Through the CA-SYS platform (Co-designed Agroecological System Experiment), INRA and its partners are designing experiments on innovative and sustainable agroecological systems. This arable infrastructure is using new experimental methods by combining varietal breeding, a minimisation of inputs, the exploitation of biological interactions and the organisation of agricultural space.

plateforme collaborative d’expérimentations en agro-écologie © INRA
Updated on 04/23/2018
Published on 02/23/2018

Tests on multi-performance agroecological cropping systems

At the INRA Experimental Farm in Époisses, on a series of plots set in a varied landscape, a variety of agroecological systems are being tested in order to reveal biotic regulation mechanisms under restricted input use. The platform has several objectives: (i) to gain a clearer understanding of the biological processes inherent in agroecological management; (ii) to design and evaluate new agroecological systems; (iii) to study the transition towards these new systems; (iv) to breed new varieties (design and evaluation of ideotypes) adapted to agroecological conditions and (v) to develop and renew experimental methods in order to generate knowledge of agroecological systems. Surrounded by important landscape features (woods, hedgerows and the plots divided by grass margins or flower strips, etc.), the use of no-till and tillage-based cropping systems is seeking to maximise functional biodiversity in order to regulate pests, fix atmospheric nitrogen and improve cycling, etc.

Two cropping systems compared at two levels of plant diversification

By maximising plant diversity and mobilising landscape infrastructures outside the cultivated plots, two main types of cropping system are being tested: one based on strategies that involve different tillage operations (occasional tillage, stale seedbed, mechanical weeding) and the other based on direct drilling under a cover crop with no tillage. In parallel, these two options will be explored by mobilising cultivated diversity in terms of both time (at the scale of the crop rotation) and space (mixtures of species and/or varieties). Numerous projects have already been initiated at the CA-SYS platform: "zero pesticide" cropping systems, the exploitation of plant covers, weed regulation or the development of new pea varieties (see insert below) etc., working with different partners in research and experimentation.

Perspectives

During 2018, the transition towards agroecological systems is being studied through (i) the joint design of systems in the context of multi-actor workshops, and (ii) characterisation of the initial status of the CA-SYS platform (soil, weeds, microbial and entomological diversity, etc.). The aim is to apply the principles of agroecology to the entire experimental farm starting as from the autumn of 2018, the ten-year goal being to achieve profitability and yields that are equivalent to the conventional systems used by neighbouring farmers though the exploitation of biotic interactions.

Sources

For more information

CA-SYS : CA-SYS: a collaborative, multi-actor platform
The advantage of this platform is that it can host innovative research projects involving different types of partners, as shown below:

  • The experimental network on zero pesticide cropping systems for arable and mixed farming, Rés0Pest, whose goal is to generate knowledge that can be used to design innovative low-pesticide cropping systems. This network of eight sites in France (including le Bretenière) is affiliated to the Innovative Cropping Systems Joint Technology Network (RMT) and forms part of the DEPHY Ecophyto network. At a local level, it is working in interaction with technical institutes (Terres Inovia, Arvalis), Chambers of Agriculture, farmers (organic or conventional) and research scientists from the Joint Research Unit for Agroecology
  • The VANCOUVER project (Valorisation of plant covers in cropping systems for agroecological weed management), whose general objective is to quantify the potential and robustness of the biological regulation of covers (intercropping, associated covers, permanent or pseudo-permanent cover crops) on weeds. This work is being carried out in collaboration with Arvalis, ITAB, ITB, Terres Inovia, In Vivo Agrosolutions and CREAB, amongst others.
  • The results of these trials were presented during the Crossroads for Agronomic Innovation meeting on multi-service cover crops (CIAg CIMS)
  • The RAID project (Casdar) on weed regulation. This project is focusing on a cash crop (protein pea) and cover species, and aims to (i) evaluate the performance of these species/varieties in cropping systems in terms of biological weed regulation and its impacts on yields and biodiversity at both the annual and multi-year scales, and (ii) to identify prospectively the traits of “ideal plants” (varieties of pea and cover plants) that could favour the biological regulation of weeds in multi-performing cropping systems in terms of agricultural production and environmental impact. This collaborative project involves the Joint Research Unit for Agroecology, Arvalis and seed producers such as Jouffray Drillaud