01 April 2020
31 March 2023


Agricultural practices are one of the major pressures that weigh on the quality of water resources, both underground and surface. In addition, consumption modes are changing and agriculture systems need to be rethought in order to meet tomorrow's diets while being more environmentally friendly. The AIL4WaterQuality project aims to quantify the impact on groundwater quality from an agricultural transition to innovative pesticide-free production systems and to supplement knowledge of pesticide transfer in the soil by instrumentation of columns.


At present, the forms of agriculture are diversifying, in particular to supply short and local circuits in order to meet the emerging needs of new consumers who demand production modes that are more respectful of the environment. Organic, flexitarian, vegetarian or even vegan diets have been on the rise for many years. Therefore, agricultural systems need to be rethought and protection of resources, especially water resources, must be a key element of these innovative production systems. Indeed, agricultural practices are one of the major pressures that weigh on the quality of water resources.

In order to limit the impact of production systems on natural resources, mainly water, two points of attention emerge. First of all is the limits of conventional agricultural production systems in terms of reducing diffuse pollution. Unfortunately, simple adjustments to conventional systems only have limited effects. It therefore becomes necessary to develop innovative production systems that potentially generate radical modifications to the environmental impacts of agricultural practices and that meet the needs of new consumers. Secondly, knowledge of the fate of pesticides in the soil is extremely limited. The necessary data, such as the sorption and degradation characteristics of molecules, are currently provided by the manufacturers and determined in the laboratory. However, when faced with observations from the field or included in these models, it becomes clear that these parameters have to be adjusted. Therefore, better understanding of the fate of the substances having the greatest impact on water quality is essential to improving their management.

This project will address these two aspects through hydrological monitoring of three innovative pesticide-free production systems and monitoring pesticide transfer in soil columns under controlled conditions.


This project has four major objectives, namely:

  • First, instrumentation of the "Agriculture Is Life" structured experiment of the Terra research centre at Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech. Three innovative pesticide-free production systems will be implemented in this structured experiment. These three systems will focus on an intensification of rotations, the establishment of CIPAN in intercropping, grazing periods as well as an exclusively vegetable system. By installing soil solution sampling probes and plates, this project aims to carry out hydrological monitoring of these three systems.
  • Second, establishment of a dynamic database for the three innovative systems which will be visible online in order to reach a broad audience
  • Third, quantification of the impact on groundwater quality from an agricultural transition to these three innovative systems.
  • Fourth, enrichment of knowledge about pesticides in the soil through monitoring of pesticide transfer in the soil columns.

Expected results

At the end of the project, the expected results are:

  • Instrumentation of the AIL structured experiment with soil sampling probes and plates as well as automated data collection.
  • Design of an interface for viewing all monitoring data as well as open data percolate analyses, available to any interested user.
  • Preparation of a soil hydrodynamic analysis report under these three innovative systems as well as on the impact on water pollution of transition to these three systems.
  • Dissemination of results by organisation such as Greenotec and Protect'eau and sending them to a target audience such as farmers.
  • Quantification of sorption and degradation parameters of target pesticides.


Unit 10 of the CRA-W is contributing to this project by bringing its expertise in analysis of phytosanitary products in various environmental matrices. After choosing the molecules to be analysed, the appropriate analytical methods will be developed. Our Unit will then analyse the samples collected in the laboratory and in the field.

The results obtained in this way will then be interpreted and disseminated in collaboration with the other partners involved.


Aurore Degrés ULiège Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, TERRA

Gilles Colinet, Jérôme Bindelle, Benjamin Dumont (ULiège – TERRA research centre)

Maxime Merchier Greenotec, asbl

Coordinator (out CRA-W)

Aurore Degrés Aurore.degre@uliege.be Bât. G1 Echanges Eau-Sol-Plantes Passage des Déportés 2 - 5030 Gembloux Belgique


  • SPGE - Société Publique de Gestion de l'Eau