AGROECOLOGY and research © Arnaud Veldeman, Véronique Gavalda

Agroecology at INRA: mobilising research

Scientific workshops at the symposium

The 17 October international symposium’s aim was to bring together experts in research, training and innovation through agroecology. Three scientific workshops and a discussion forum were part of the programme. The forum included round tables followed by exchanges with the auditorium, and thoughts and observations brought up during the scientific workshops were debated.

By Pascale Mollier, translated by Teri Jones-Villeneuve
Updated on 10/21/2013
Published on 10/21/2013

The three scientific workshops were based on complementary topics. Each dealt with a major driver of transitions in agroecology:

- Making use of biodiversity

- Managing agricultural activities on the landscape and regional scales

- Understanding how the major cycles (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc.) work together.

Each workshop reviewed the state of current knowledge before taking a look at areas of focus to promote transition, better performances from innovative systems and socioeconomic factors of change.

Workshop 1: Making use of biodiversity

Transitions in agroecology are often based on better understanding of and increased reliance on the biodiversity inherent in farming systems. Numerous methods can be leveraged for better outcomes, including associating several components (e.g., agroforestry), combining several plant species (long rotations, intermediate crops, mixed crops) or animals (mixed grazing), associating several varieties of the same species, managing field borders and promoting beneficial organisms. Learning to make better use of biodiversity in agriculture was considered from the standpoint of three major farming systems: arable crops, animal husbandry and perennial crops.

Workshop 2: Managing agricultural activities on the landscape and regional scales

Managing a landscape mozaic or a watershed on an individual or collective basis and integrating this agroecological management into the development of a region can help preserve crucial agricultural resources. Learning to manage how agricultural activities are organised on these scales was examined with regards to three areas:

- Soil, water quality and ecological infrastructures

- Quantitative water management at the watershed level

- Regulating pests and pollination at the landscape level.

Workshop 3: Understanding how the major cycles (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc.) work together

Agroecological transitions generally focus on understanding how the major cycles can complete each other through a series of practices: nitrogen fixation, carbon and nutrient sequestration in soil organic matter, recycling and disposal of farm fertilizers, and integrated crop and livestock systems. By understanding how the cycles work together, nutrient losses and waste can be avoided and pollution and greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced. Using the major cycles of agricultural production in a complete way was looked at from three angles:

- Pulses and symbiosis

- The biological function of soil and organic matter

- Effluent management and integrated crop and livestock systems.