Contributing to the boom in organic agriculture

Head of rotation or diversification crops, oilseeds and protein crops are crops with high added value.

Organic agriculture is expanding rapidly, particularly in the field crop sector: in 2019, organic oilseeds and protein crops will occupy 194,800 ha in 2020 (according to the Agence Bio, July 2021), i.e. 29% of the organic field crop area (668,500 ha).
Within the field crops, cereals dominate the crop rotation, especially soft wheat. But oilseeds have the delicate role of being positioned at the head of the rotation or as a diversification crop, potentially with high added value. Expectations about these crops and their adaptation to different soil and climate conditions are high and requests are numerous.

At Terres Inovia, we have been working on organic farming for a long time. Our work is mainly focused on optimizing technical itineraries for the mainstays of the rotation (such as soybean or sunflower in the South) and developing technical innovations, but also on the feasibility of our diversification crops in different contexts.
These studies involve, of course, the carrying out of experiments but also, in the upstream phase, the acquisition of references on the practices carried out on our crops and their evolution over time. All of our work is communicated through various media, such as our organic growing guides and participation in various events.

Contact : Cécile Le Gall

tournesol bio

Our goals

To assess the problems and technical difficulties raised by producers, by going out into the field to meet local actors in the various production areas. In addition to this analysis of needs, a complementary survey of actors from the transformation sector is performed by the relevant interprofessional body (Terres Univia).

To build shared expertise in organic agriculture, by combining the skills and expertise of the institute with those of its various partners. The reference data obtained and acquired skills are shared, notably through the Proléobio exchange groups.

To develop experimentation on organic oil and protein crops. In this way, the institute strengthens its acquisition of reference data for organic agriculture by developing partnerships and a more dynamic presence in networks of farmers.

To facilitate the dynamics of variety evaluation for organic agriculture, in close collaboration with the CTPS, through its contribution to the CISAB (Commission Inter-Sections sur l’AB; the inter-section commission for organic agriculture) and through the establishment of dedicated trials with field partners for soybean and sunflower.

To acquire technical and economic reference data through surveys of cropping practices in the various production areas. This enables the institute to identify the keys to success and the technical and organizational obstacles, with a view to proposing levers of action for producers. The ultimate objective is to contribute to the development of organic farming systems that are robust, and thus sustainable in the long term.

Our main actions

Sharing the results of research and development work on organic oil and protein crops: Proléobio meetings

These meetings, organized by Terres Inovia, in collaboration with ITAB (Technical institute for organic agriculture) and agricultural development organizations, bring together researchers, agricultural advisers and representatives of the various sectors (producers, collecting organizations and transformers). They provide an opportunity for exchanges concerning the latest innovations, the reference data acquired, updates of projects underway and the definition of research directions. Three such meetings are held each year and give rise to fruitful exchanges.

Improving our understanding of cropping practices for our crops and identifying obstacles: surveys of organic cropping practices

Surveys of organic cropping practices: a questionnaire is sent out, every two to four years, to farmers, to determine precisely how they cultivate organic crops (technical schedules, yields, commercialization etc.). Surveys have already been performed for sunflower and soybean, at exactly the same time and interval as those performed for conventional agriculture. This major action of the institute provides a global vision of the practices employed in organic farming, and their convergence or divergence relative to practices in conventional farming, guiding the orientation of research work at the institute.

Boosting the development of organic rapeseed

Rapeseed is a crop known to be difficult in organic agriculture and its development is still confidential, even if a significant increase in surface areas has been visible in recent years. This is why several actors, at the local level, have mobilized to identify the levers to secure this crop in organic farming.

In 2020, 14 partners joined forces to work together on this crop for 3 years, within the SeColBio project. Supported by FranceAgriMer, this project coordinated by Terres Inovia aims to:
- To prioritize the factors limiting production through a regionalized and multi-year observatory, and a survey of organic rapeseed producers;
- To evaluate different agronomic levers in a network of trials;
- To produce regionalized advice, adapted to the pedoclimatic constraints of different production basins: South-West (Occitania, Landes), Great-West (Brittany, Pays de la Loire), Great-East (Hauts de France and ex-Lorraine) and South-East (Drôme and Rhône)



Variety evaluation: a major issue for our crops

Having a variety adapted to its context and its production objectives is essential in Organic Agriculture (AB) to ensure the performance of its culture (economic but also environmental). In fact, disease management depends above all on variety, as there are few biocontrol products available. The habit of the plant and its height are also key points in weed management. As a result, the search for varieties adapted to the (varied) conditions of organic production is a major stake, which goes upstream, through the creation of varieties, but also through the downstream screening of varieties available on the market. If the latter has already been engaged in soft winter wheat for several years, it remains to be implemented for oil and protein crops. An initiative was launched on soybeans, with the establishment of a mini varietal assessment network, as part of the EcovAB project (2014-2018), piloted by ITAB and funded by Casdar. In addition to the technical results, this initiative made it possible to draw the first avenues for the framing of organic varietal evaluation on soybeans. In the rest of the project, Terres Inovia kept the momentum going by launching varietal evaluation trials on other crops: soybeans (late and early varieties), sunflowers and field beans (winter and spring), but also chickpeas. For 3 years, around thirty variety trials have been carried out and which will allow in 2020 the establishment of the first specifically organic varietal syntheses in sunflower and soybeans. All of the experiences acquired will feed into the ongoing collective reflection, carried by Cisab and the sections of the CTPS.