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

'Read more' for:

• Further details on the case study
• Updates from the field trial on companion cropping with winter oilseed rape
• A video on oilseed rape establishment (in French with English subtitles)
• The summary field trials leaflet focusing on soil structure assessment

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

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 or reduced tillage: e.g. frost sensitive companion plants in oilseed rape, then wheat associated with peas or faba bean

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 ►

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

• On farm trials were carried out on the topic of companion cropping (winter oilseed rape with legume cover crops; wheat with grain legumes) in reduced or no tillage systems. Trials compared conventional and innovative practices on the same farm.

• Collected data were used to develop and assess a Decision Support Guide based on the assessment of soil structure, cultivation system, climate, weed burden and environmental risk. The tool aims to help farmers and advisers choose the most appropriate management practices to achieve successful innovative cropping systems.

• Watch Gilles Sauzet from Terres Inovia giving a step by step guide to establishing oilseed rape based on the Decision Support Guide being developed in VALERIE.


• A simple guide for assessing soil structure was also refined and tested in the field on a succession of oilseed rape and wheat crops, with and without a grain legume companion crop.

Innovative cropping system; oilseed rape in association with cover crops:
• Key findings:

1.    A decrease in weed and insect pressure. Good oilseed rape biomass at the beginning of the winter was linked to a decrease in weed and insect pressure

2.    An increase in the yields of oilseed rape and of the following wheat crop

3.    The decision support guide can help farmers/advisors select the best management practices in these new cropping systems

• The summary (including results) field trials leaflet, 'Sustainable innovative practices in the central region of France: a focus on soil structure assessment in the field' (English version) can be downloaded here and the annexes here: Annex 1, Annex 2, Annex 3 (in French), Annex 4 see above video, & Annex 5 (in French).