AGROECOLOGY and research © Arnaud Veldeman, Véronique Gavalda

Agroecology at INRA: mobilising research

Focus on metaprogrammes

INRA has created metaprogrammes to group together related research projects and encourage interdisciplinary exchange. Seven of the institute’s eight defined metaprogrammes are linked to agroecology.

By Pascale Mollier, translated by Emma Morton-Saliou
Updated on 10/28/2013
Published on 10/11/2013

Coordinated by the heads of research divisions, metaprogrammes organise and oversee research projects conducted by several INRA divisions to promote a cross-disciplinary approach. The launch of a metaprogramme is usually accompanied by a call for proposals by teams. A variety of coordination tools are used: calls for exploratory research projects, the creation of networks, international seminars, and doctoral and postdoctoral grants, for example.

Five of the six metaprogrammes currently underway at INRA deal with agroecology: ACCAF (1), GISA (2), MEM (3), SELGEN (4), and SMaCH (5).

One focus of the ACCAF programme is the role played by diversification and biodiversity in making production systems resistant to climate change.

The SMaCH and GISA programmes study the integrated management of plant and animal health, respectively, as an alternative to the use of pesticides and medicines. Integrated management involves coordinating several preventive and curative methods with the aim of controlling, not eradicating, pathogens. SMaCH includes the PRESUM network, which focuses on the sustainable management of pathogen resistance. Interaction between GISA, SMaCH and ACCAF is possible, given the links between climate change and biotic stress.

The SelGen metaprogramme is based on the technological revolution brought about by genome sequencing. Genomic selection can be oriented to promote more robust, resistant genotypes, and genetic resources are key to levering different genetic strategies with which to provide solutions in agroecology. Two species have been selected for the moment: cattle and wheat.

The MEM metaprogramme leads metagenomic research involving bacterial ecosystems (soils, pathosystems, rumen, the human digestive tract, foods, etc.). MEM research projects take agroecology further by enhancing the connection between microbial ecology and agronomic applications.

 Two new upcoming metaprogrammes, EcoServ (6) and GloFoodS (7) are also related to this field. GloFoodS is focused on “designing and transitioning towards new agricultural systems”, an INRA agroecology priority (see Part 2).

(1)   ACCAF: Adaptation of Agriculture and Forests to Climate Change (Jean-Marc Guehl, Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology)

(2)   GISA: Integrated Management of Animal Health (Thierry Pineau, Animal Health)

(3)   MEM : Meta-omics of Microbial Ecosystems (Emmanuelle Maguin, Microbiology and the Food Chain)

(4)   SELGEN: Genomic Selection (Denis Milan, Animal Genetics)

(5)   SMaCH: Sustainable Management of Crop Health (Xavier Reboud, Plant Health and Environment)

(6)   EcoServ : Ecosystem Services (Guy Richard, Environment and Agronomy)

(7)   GloFoods : Study of Transitions for Global Food Security (Bertrand Schmitt, Social Sciences, Agriculture and Food, Rural Development and Environment)

Click here for the Metaprogrammes web page.

ECOSERV, a new metaprogramme directly linked to agroecology

ECOSERV researchers will establish a scientific basis for assessing the services provided by agroecosystems, optimise them through the regional distribution of activities and propose public policy instruments. Examining all of these services, as well as synergies and incongruities, represents a significant paradigm shift in the relationship between agriculture and the environment: now, in addition to minimising the effects of agriculture, the goal is to manage natural resources in an integrated way which includes all stakeholders. A key goal of this metaprogramme will be to develop tools and models that are suited to the complexity of managing agroecosystems in an unstable context. Support will be provided by modelling platforms: RECORD for the functioning of agroecosystems, and MEANS for multi-criteria assessment. Researchers in the metaprogramme will participate in several networks, such as IPBES (1), an international project created in 2012, and EFESE (2) (in French) in France.

(1) IPBES: Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

(2) EFESE: French assessment of ecosystems and ecosystemic services.