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Agroecology and global change

Authors
  • Clermont Dauphin, Cathy
  • Blanchart, Eric
  • Loranger-Merciris, G.
  • Meynard, J.M.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
Source
Horizon / Pleins textes
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown
External links

Abstract

The intensive farming practices that have been developed over the past 60 years are based mainly on the use of chemical inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides, mechanical tillage and monoculture. The limitations of these methods are now clear: long-term degradation of soil fertility, impacts on the environment and human health, high consumption of fossil fuels, low efficiency of inputs and threats to food security in a context of climate change. Would farming practices that rely on the activation of ecological processes be an alternative to achieve a balance between high productivity and environmental preservation? While many studies suggest a positive relationship between soil biodiversity and ecosystem services, there is considerable debate on the form such agricultural systems should take. This study reviewed the state of current knowledge and identified aspects requiring further research to achieve the aim of sustainable intensification of agriculture. The following major points emerged : Most studies focused on the evaluation of individual practices. However, changes in farmers’ cropping practices to take advantage of soil biodiversity services would need to manage not only the interactions between various practices but also the trade-off between the technical and socio economic constraints of cropping systems. Advances in agricultural system design approaches may help to ensure appropriate trade-offs. More attention should be given to drawing on knowledge from different sources: laboratory studies focusing on the ecological functions of soil biodiversity, experimental surveys on farmers’ fields to rank the farming practices and processes to be included in site-specific models, and on- station experiments to test hypotheses and acquire additional reference material. Whereas advances in technical and scientific knowledge provide an increasing number of relevant indicators for characterizing biodiversity and ecological functions, studies are rarely targeted at the development of indicators that are accessible to farmers or their technical advisors. The lack of indicators accessible to grassroots players for evaluating the impacts of their decisions on soil biodiversity remains a serious obstacle to the development of innovative agro-ecological systems.

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