Agrimonde Foresight. © inra

Agrimonde Foresight Study: how do we feed the world in 2050?

Une même parcelle à des saisons différentes : colza début floraison  et arbre en fleurs (voir images référencées 9114-0068.jpg, 9114-0073.jpg). © CARRERAS Florence

Agrimonde challenges: what are the technological and organisational options for ecological intensification?

The ecological intensification required for the G1 scenario involves numerous constraints: technical as well as social, economic and political. The Agrimonde symposium organised in October 2009 provides areas for reflection.

Updated on 04/24/2013
Published on 02/26/2013

Strictly speaking, the ecological intensification of agricultural systems in the G1 scenario can be defined as agricultural practices which best utilise ecological processes. These renewed agricultural practices will require fewer fossil fuels, better respect the land via methods such as crop associations or adapted soil practices, employ integrated crop protection using beneficial organisms to fight pests, make use of crop successions or plot rotations, and be more resistant to disease thanks to the use of a greater number of species and varieties.
Contrary to the old-fashioned image that is sometimes portrayed, ecological intensification will benefit from scientific and technological progress, such as using biotechnologies, remote sensors or computer assisted selection. It will also integrate traditional practices and know-how.

Ecological intensification cannot be reduced to a single technical dimension.
It must also be considered from social, economic, political, spatial and many other viewpoints. For example, in terms of spatial organisation of agricultural and natural spaces, there are two models which could be applied:

• The first model  separates the cultivated species from natural species for environmental protection. It requires innovative methods to limit environmental damage in the farmed area. However, environmental problems are primarily viewed as a separate issue relating to non-productive areas, leading in extreme cases to a complete “sanctuarisation” of those areas.

• The second model brings different types of productive systems together over the same area, creating a mosaic of ecosystems that serves as both a source of marketable goods and ecological services, such as soil preservation, carbon storage and biodiversity protection. According to this second model, crops, livestock and forestry activities can coexist on a regional scope or over the space of a single production unit. As such, it would no longer be a question of destruction or protection of forests in Latin America, but rather of an agro-forestry approach, using practices that are adapted to sub-regional situations. Similarly, grazing lands in Northern Africa, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa could be a source of food for animals as well as a key factor in biodiversity protection. Farms, which could be considered poor performers when gauged against traditional technical and economic criteria, are the very definition of multi-functional, playing an essential environmental and social role. If necessary, public financing can provide support to ensure their long-term survival.

See the video (in French) of the round table on options for ecological intensification, which took place at the Agrimonde symposium held in October 2009