6 December 2018 Didier STILMANT

Diversification of cropping systems, a vehicle for ecological intensification of our agricultural production?

Downstream demand and the plant production schemes standardisation have led to a simplification of cropping systems. This raises many questions, both in terms of agronomy and of the composition of our diet.

Diversification of cropping systems, a vehicle for ecological intensification of our agricultural production?

Some of the current plant production practices can effectively lead to (1) the persistence of a high disease incidence due to the return of species of the same family on the same field; (2) soils without permanent plant cover; (3) the development of certain weeds because there is no alternating of winter and spring crops; (4) a reduction in the occurrence of nitrogen-fixing legumes in rotation; ... In the current systems, these constraints are offset by the use of numerous inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, ...), which raises questions concerning their sustainability.

In this respect, the DiverIMPACTS project aims to bring all the benefits and potentialities offered by the diversification of cropping systems to the fore, for the farmers, for the supply chains, and for society. It is based on the support of 25 case studies set up by stakeholders, based on various crop diversification strategies. In Wallonia, these case studies concern (1) the identification and validation of techniques for reconciling organic and conservation agriculture, (2) the development of interculture areas grazed by sheep through collaboration between breeders and farmers and (3) the development of pea production sectors through cereal-associated crops.

By making use of results of long-term trials, including CRA-W's organic material platform, the project also aims to provide stakeholders with methods and innovations to overcome the barriers and obstacles identified.

A survey was also carried out on 128 European experiments that applied different diversification strategies to their cropping systems (intercropping, multiple cultures, longer rotations, ...). Analysis of the results identified the major role played by the mobilisation of a network of key stakeholders, thus ensuring the success of the project, because a network of this type makes it possible, among other things, to remove the agronomic and economic obstacles encountered when diversification involves marketing a new product or interaction between farmers.

For further information: https://www.diverimpacts.net/

Date of update 6 December 2018