11 December 2020

Innovative production systems and the impact on groundwater

The development and a better understanding of the fate of pesticides in the environment would enable us to reduce the impact on water quality

The Agriculture Is Life For Water Quality (AIL4WaterQuality) project is based on two observations: on the one hand, adjusting conventional production systems has a limited reduction in the effect on water quality, so it is now essential to develop innovative production systems and, on the other hand, the knowledge of pesticides behaviour within a soil profile is extremely limited.

The trials set up on the Agriculture Is Life platform (ULiège Agro-Bio-Tech) are innovative agricultural production systems that meet the demands of society while also preserving natural resources. The three systems tested are geared towards agriculture without pesticides, based on long, 8-year rotations. The first system is typically based on Animal-Plant flows via "above-ground" interactions involving conventional crops, chemical fertilisers and animal-derived organic matter. The second system, Animal-Plant flows within agroecological interactions, entails periods of grazing and limited use of chemical fertilisers. The third system is a vegan approach that makes use of organic material from non-animal sources.

The project has four main objectives:

  • Instrumentation of the three production systems for hydrological monitoring. Water content and potential probes have been set up in the first three horizons for this purpose. Soil solution sampling plates have been installed below the root zone in order to analyse pesticides and nitrates percolating in the soil.
  • The creation of a database for the three production systems: the data will be accessible and downloadable to any interested user.
  • The quantification of the impact of agricultural transition on water quality and the modelling of water and molecule flows in the root zone and groundwater.
  • The enrichment of knowledge on the mobility of pesticides in soils by monitoring the transfer of pesticides on soil columns.

The practical exploitation of the results, along with their promotion and dissemination within the agricultural sector, is an important aspect of the project aimed at helping those who work in the agricultural sector to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.

The AIL4WaterQuality project is subsidised by the SPGE and backed by the TERRA (Gembloux Agro-Bio-Tech) research and training centre.