The ultimate goal of the Intell'eau project is to develop a cartographic decision support tool (DST) for the implementation of water and soil conservation measures, for both agricultural plots and transitions between plots. The aim is therefore to optimise the use of these techniques by taking into account their combined effects in limiting the risk of run-off and loss of soil and pesticide residues on the scale of small agricultural drainage areas. This tool will be made available to agricultural advisers and farmers. The ULiège - Gembloux Agro-BioTech, the UCLouvain and the CIPF are project partners working alongside the CRA-W.
The priority of the first stage of the project (2021-2023) is to quantify the impact of measures taken to reduce erosion-induced run-off. Some techniques, for example sodded bands or no-till farming techniques, have already been extensively studied. Other, more innovative techniques require measures to be taken at ground level, such as miscanthus strips, under-sowing with corn or summer pre-beds in potatoes. The project therefore relies on a bibliographical review to gather all existing relevant data, and in situ measurements for the less well-documented techniques.
To name but a few of the innovative developments assessed on the ground in 2021, the miscanthus strip and the very short rotation coppice of willow appear to be effective inter-plot developments for retaining the flow of muddy water, in addition to their productive function (mainly in biomass). In terms of agricultural practice, the strip-till method (digging the seeding line only) is still not commonly adopted in our regions, but it shows great potential when growing a crop of corn in a simplified tillage system.
Several innovative methods of reducing erosion already appear to represent a promising addition to existing measures. Others are still under study. The decision support tool to be developed on completion of the Intell'eau project should make it possible to better quantify the impact of the various measures taken in isolation or in combination, and thus identify the most effective action to be taken according to individual requirements.