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Varenne agricole: Terres Inovia's analyses at the heart of the sector's reflection

14 Dec 2021

Given the frequent lack of knowledge about oilseed and protein crop species, the Institute's work is based on observations from past decades that can be reasonably projected into the future.

A worrying state of affairs

Rapeseed: obstacles to growth that are expected to worsen

Recent campaigns have very often been marked by late, irregular or even absent rapeseed emergence. This phenomenon, due to the drying out of the surface of the soil in the absence of rain, is becoming more and more frequent and is all the more harmful as it greatly reduces the effectiveness of the integrated control method against the crop's autumn pests.

Indeed, the traditional phytosanitary solutions are no longer sufficiently effective (too few in number and therefore subject to rapid appearance of resistance). The phenomenon is further aggravated by the increase in the pressure of these pests: the most advanced larval stages (therefore a greater nuisance) are reached several weeks or even, for the coldest areas, several months earlier than in the past, which is favored by the increase in temperatures. This impact is undeniably the most serious because it has already cut down, in recent years, a third of the surface of the crop, and we can imagine that, without adaptations, it will get worse.
Another phenomenon, often forgotten, is that excess water, especially in winter, is detrimental to many crops, especially rapeseed, with its taproot system.

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Sunflower: a relative tolerance to drought which paradoxically exposes the crop

Climate change has led to an increase in water and heat stress conditions for sunflowers in their traditional southern basins, and a shortening of the cycle. However, this does not directly translate into a decrease in yield potential. The stagnation or decrease in yields is above all due to the choice of sunflower for contexts with low water availability (superficial soils, dry management): paradoxically, it is the adaptation of this crop to climatic stresses that leads to its being more exposed.

To know more about sunflower

Pea: a crop sensitive to late frosts

Protein pea is a typical example of a crop impacted by contradictory developments in climate change. The crop is indeed more exposed to late frost damage. The winter warming induces an advance of the stages and an exit of the crop from its cold hardening phase, it is made sensitive earlier. The 2021 campaign is moreover particularly marked by this phenomenon which, beyond its direct damage, leads to a sensitization of the crop to diseases, and in particular to bacteriosis.

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Soybeans: growing conditions dependent on the water context in the future

Soybeans are one of the few crops for which modeling studies have been conducted to make future projections. These studies show a deterioration, beyond 2050 in the most intense warming scenarios, of soybean growing conditions in the traditional basins of the Southwest, which are very exposed to a deterioration in water comfort, while the more northerly territories could, on the contrary, become more favorable. However, the water comfort of soybeans, and of legumes in general, is a condition for good atmospheric nitrogen fixation: the strong point of legumes is therefore also their point of sensitivity, and therefore strongly depends on access to water.

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Oilseed flax: oil quality impacted

The factor that has the greatest impact on omega-3 content, an essential quality criterion for this sector, is the intensity of scald during seed filling. Night temperatures are particularly detrimental and are therefore a crucial point of attention for the future of the sector.


Diversification: warming, an additional stress that harms the robustness of crops

Crop diversification - a prerequisite for more sustainable agriculture - can be very vulnerable to climate change, as each crop does not have a sufficient basket of technical solutions to cope with the stresses suffered by the crops.

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What levers should be mobilized?
Improving soil health and promoting virtuous practices

Terres Inovia sets up research-development-transfer programs to disseminate operational tools enabling producers to manage their soil fertility in a more integrated way. These approaches, often conducted with farmer networks, are part of soil conservation agriculture and contribute to mitigating climate change. The downstream part of the sector is also mobilized, with, for example, the valorization of oilseeds with low greenhouse gas emissions (initiatives by Saipol, FNA, several cooperatives, etc.).

Resilience irrigation

Faced with increasing water stress, the adoption of a "resilience" irrigation approach, recommended by the Ministry, would have many advantages:
- Starter irrigation in rapeseed can help secure emergence.
- Preserving water volumes late in the season for rapeseed emergence and the end of the soybean cycle could allow for more diversified water uses.
- Inputs to legumes should also be favored for their contribution to the symbiotic nitrogen fixation process.

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Supporting the movement of spring crops to the North

The opportunities to grow certain traditionally more southerly crops - soybean, sunflower, chickpea - further north imply the implementation of a certain number of tools and actions, such as the selection of early varieties adapted to these sectors, the choice of species, and of course the sharing of experiences and references.

What needs are required to support adaptation?
Support for plant improvement of small species, seed legumes and oilseed flax

In the face of increasing stresses, public support must be maintained, and even reinforced, for public-private R&D projects, varietal creation techniques and the implementation of mechanisms to encourage the use of certified seed for seed legumes, but also support for R&D on small species.

Addressing the issue of excess water

It would be wise to launch concerted research programs, ranging from more fundamental knowledge to applied work.

Lifting the diversification lock

In order to avoid that the smallest species are not sufficiently equipped to be integrated into our production systems and commodity chains, it seems desirable to us to better identify the benefits brought when a crop protection solution allows to avoid the risk of not being able to cultivate a given species anymore.

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