This case study focuses on sustainable oilseed rape drilling and intercropping management to improve soil fertility in the Champagne Berrichonne region of central France.

VALERIE themes covered:
1. Crop rotation, soil cover management and integrated pest management ►
2. Eco-system and social services in agriculture and forestry ►
3. The management of agricultural soils as integrated agro-ecological systems ►

Growing concerns about the long-term profitability and sustainability of intensive, high input production systems resulted in the establishment of a network of arable farmers and advisers in the Champagne Berrichonne region of Central France.  The group aim to develop new techniques and investigate alternative approaches that reduce the impact of farming on the environment and improve soil properties.

Location: Champagne Berrichonne, Cher and Indre, Central France
Main land use: mixed farming, although the case study focuses on arable production - mainly oilseed rape, wheat and winter barley, which can be associated with leguminous crops
Stakeholders: farmers, technical institutes, agricultural chambers, development groups and machinery companies
Key issues:
o    Improving the quality of oilseed rape drilling and autumn growth in order to better withstand autumn weed and disease threats, and limit spring nitrogen input
o    Direct seeding in permanent cover: e.g. oilseed rape sown together with cover crops, then direct seeding of wheat under cover of clover or alfalfa

Case study updates:
• A meeting was held in 2014 to present the VALERIE project to a pre-existing network. The farmers in the network have been invited on the basis of their commitment to agricultural development.

• A second meeting took place in February 2015 with the farmer’s network group of the Berry region. Feedback from the review of VALERIE innovation factsheets highlighted the need for the factsheets to be concise and clear in the information provided. Six key topics for research were collectively identified by the farmer’s group. The discussions which followed identified ‘in-field evaluation methods of soil quality’ as a potential topic for the field trials.

Field trials:
• Issue to be addressed in the field trials:
o    The effect of soil tillage & crop management on soil quality

• Farmers will be invited to actively participate in field assessments, and to discuss improvements of methods used. The trial aims are:
o    To develop an on-field method to assess soil quality that can be easily carried out by farmers. The trials will help to improve understanding of cropping systems effects on soil quality and structure

• Trials will start in 2016.

Contact: Anne-Sophie Perrin; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.