Version française



cropping systems
managing pests
pesticide use inputs

agricultural systems
challenge of agriculture

innovation plant (annual,perennial,...)
tropical and Mediterranean area
environmental footprint of farming

Key figures

13 multidisciplinary research units

300 researchers and teacher-researchers

19 diploma courses

25 short training-education programmes

Thematic directory Agropolis

Download the agronomy thematic file " n° 12 (July 2010, 68 p.) 2nd Edition 2012

agronomy thematic file


Portal contact :
Chantal Salson
Agropolis International
Tel. : +33 (0)4 67 04 75 49

Coordinator : Jacques Wery
(Montpellier SupAgro)
Tel. : +33 (0)4 99 61 25 07


Agronomy Research Expertise in Montpellier and Languedoc-Roussillon (South of France)

Agronomy : crops and cropping systems

1. Ensuring top quality, high quantity production

Pascal Clouvel
& Jacques Wery
UMR System

Publication date : 30/05/2010

The intensive agriculture model, based on massive use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, water and fossil fuels, widely contributed to the dramatic increase of productivity in industrialised countries. But it is currently challenged.
After several decades of implementation, the impacts on the environment, human health and biodiversity are representative of the shortcomings of this production strategy in terms of sustainability.

In developing countries, which have long been familiar with intensive agriculture techniques, crop yields remain low and increased production has usually gone hand in hand with the increase in cultivated areas, to the detriment of forest and grassland ecosystems. Tropical agriculture research, like that focused on temperate areas, is being tapped to come up with ‘other ways of producing’ so as to be able to fulfil the demand of a steadily growing world population.

Oil palm fruit harvest - A. Verwilghen ©CIRADIn natural ecosystems, biodiversity has many functions that have gradually been lost over the past decades, in connection with the drastic simplification of landscapes in industrialized countries, and the alteration of primary productivity of environments in developing countries. In both cases, the remobilization of functional biodiversity in cropping systems is unavoidable.

Cover crops or agroforestry systems, for instance, influence and activate core processes such as soil biological activity, habitat provision for beneficial insects, and local climate and water flow regulation. This is the pathway being investigated by the group of Agropolis International agronomists, with the aim of reducing the use of pesticides, fertilizers and tillage, while not overlooking the fact that cultivated systems are designed and managed for the purposes of exportation, which fundamentally distinguishes them from natural systems.

Agronomy is substantially focused on the issue of reducing environmental impacts, while systematically seeking a tradeoff with the quantitative and qualitative aspects of production, which in turn are usually the basis of economic sustainability. In this setting, studies are based on the assumption that production is the result of managing a complex biophysical system, i.e. a crop field, in which plant, pathogen and pest populations interact and share resources (water, light, habitat, etc.). It is also considered as a commercial trade item subjected to quality standards and criteria required by the industry and markets—the research challenge is thus to come up with new production strategies.

Oil palm fruit harvest - A. Verwilghen ©CIRAD

Agronomy research expertise

  • Research projects
  • Research units and teams involved

Mango fruit production and quality

A cv Cogshall mango tree in full fruit production.- © F. Normand

Mango ranks fifth in terms of worldwide fruit production.Like other tropical fruit species, mango cropping is hampered by problems affecting yield and quality: alternation of flowering and production between years, variable fruit quality and ripeness, pest and disease control. The lack of knowledge on mango is a barrier to effective mango crop management. The (...)

Diagnostic methods to improve tropical tree crop productivity

Tall mature palm trees (12 m and taller): skilled labour required for pole use (Ecuador).- © B. Dubos

In humid tropical areas, the expansion of oil palm, natural rubber, coffee and cocoa cropping to meet growing world demand raises environmental issues. It is thus essential to enhance the productivity of established plantations by targeting higher sustainable crop yields using environment-friendly cropping practices.

Researchers of the UPR Performance


Modelling the functioning of a tropical agrosystem:an application to banana plantations

Banana/Neonotonia wightii (legume) association- © J.M. Risede

Modification of overall agrosystem functioning is required for cropping system (CS) innovation. A system approach to relationships between plants, pests and the environment is needed to understand and describe the functioning of these new systems, which are more complex than systems in which inputs are massively used. This system-based representation of agrosystem (...)

Virtual Fruit–a model to gain insight into fruit quality

Simulation of temporal variations in the physiological profile of fruit of a wild genotype and a mutant for sugar transport to the fruit (values increase from green to red).

Fruit quality is the result of many highly interacting physiological processes that are controlled by many genes whose intensity varies with the environment and cropping practices. The genetic, environmental and cropping factors controlling the intensity of the processes and their interactions have to be understood before being able to manage this quality, which (...)

Ecological intensification of cocoa- or coffee-based agroforestry systems

Agroforestry cocoa plantation in central Cameroon. - © P. Jagoret

Agroforestry stands in which cocoa and coffee trees are grown alongside many different woody, forest or fruit species are complex systems with high environmental and socioeconomic value. These sustainable systems require few chemical inputs and, in addition to coffee and cocoa, they provide farmers with a range of self-consumed or marketed fruits, timber and (...)

The root system: in situ knowledge enables optimization of crop functioning

Root systems have many functions, e.g. supplying plants with water and nutrients, maintaining the soil structure and its organic status, and reducing erosion risks. The rhizosphere is also a unique ecological niche with intense soil biological activity. These features are especially important under tropical poor fragile soil conditions. The conventional measuring (...)

Development of tools for analyzing grapevine canopy functioning

3D model of the canopy structure.G.Louarn © UMR LEPSE

The crop canopy is a site of mass and energy exchanges between the plant and atmosphere. There is high microclimatic heterogeneity in this complex environment. Many studies have shown that the grapevine canopy structure affects the yield via its effects on light interception, photosynthesis and transpiration. It also affects grape ripening and the harvested grape (...)

DMC-an ecological intensification engineering tool

Rice cropped on Stylosantes guianensis mulch (Xieng Khouang province, Laos).- F.Tivet © CIRAD

For ecological intensification, research must provide relevant solutions to two major issues, i.e. need to produce more even though farmland is decreasing, and to produce better in order to preserve the environment. The intensification of natural processes by direct seeding mulch-based cropping systems (DMC) can restore the chemical, physical and biological fertility (...)

Much higher production with agroforestry systems in temperate regions

A newly planted agroforestry plot with walnut trees and cereal crops.- © C.Dupraz

A 100 ha agroforestry plot can yield as much as a standard 140 ha crop field. In agroforestry systems, trees and crops are grown together in agricultural plots. Current experiments, supplemented by computer simulations, have confirmed the high productivity potential of temperate agroforestry systems. Mixed poplar–cereal crop plots produce 40% more than plots (...)

Changing relationships between sugarcane growers and industrial stakeholders to improve sugarcane quality

Manual sugarcane harvesting in South Africa. - P.Y. Le Gal © CIRAD

Agroindustrial subsectors represent a significant income source for farmers in both developed and developing countries. Farmers and agroindustrial processing units interact in supply areas to manage physical flows of agricultural raw materials, information flows and incentive instruments implemented to regulate and pay for deliveries in quantitative and qualitative (...)

Plant architecture and in-plant water supply and transfer

Water potential simulation by the water extraction and transfer model

Water supply has a marked impact on plant functioning in terms of resource acquisition (water/mineral uptake and photosynthesis), assimilate allocation to different organs and therefore control of organ growth.

A plant water uptake and transfer model was developed. This model is based on plant architecture descriptions combined with characterization of


This example was not published on the print file in July 2010.

Research units and teams involved in "Ensuring top quality, high quantity production"

Click on the title to see the web site Member institutes and partners Scientists number Director Description
UMR LEPSE : Ecophysiology Laboratory of Plants under Environmental Stress Inra, Montpellier SupAgro 15 Bertrand Muller See the description
UMR INNOVATION : Innovation and Development in Agriculture and the Agri-Food Sector
The processes through which agriculture adapts are founded on technical and organizational innovations, on both a collective and an individual level.
Cirad, Inra, Montpellier SupAgro 50 Guy Faure See the description
UMR SYSTEM : Tropical and Mediterranean Cropping System Functioning and Management
The unit generates knowledge and tools for use in assessing, steering and developing cropping systems.
CIHEAM-IAM.M, Cirad, Inra, Montpellier SupAgro 20 Christian Gary See the description
UPR HortSys : Agroecological Functioning and Performances of Horticultural Cropping Systems
Inventing an ecologically intensive type of horticulture so as to feed people better: this is a wide-ranging mandate for the unit, whose main aim is to generate and capitalize on knowledge so as to assess and design sustainable horticultural cropping systems.
Cirad 28 Fabrice Le Bellec See the description
UPR PSCPP : Performance of Tree Crop-Based Systems Cirad 20 Eric Gohet See the description
UPR AIDA : Agro-ecology and Sustainable Intensification of Annual Crops
The Annual Cropping Systems (SCA) and Conservation Agriculture and Engineering (SIA) Research Units were merged to form this new unit as of 1 January 2014.
Cirad 56 Eric Scopel See the description
UPR AIDA : Conservation Agriculture and Engineering -->Agro-ecology and Sustainable Intensification of Annual Crops
The Annual Cropping Systems (SCA) and Conservation Agriculture and Engineering (SIA) Research Units were merged to form this new unit as of 1 January 2014.
Cirad 13 See the description
UPR GECO : Ecological Functioning and Sustainable Management of Banana and Pineapple Cropping Systems
Although export fruit crops are a major source of jobs and currency, they are now often barely viable, in agronomic, economic or social terms. These fruit monocultures often cause pollution and impoverish the environment. The markets are increasingly competitive and consumers increasingly demanding.
Cirad 22 Luc De Lapeyre de Bellaire See the description
UR PSH : Plant and Garden Cropping Systems (in French) Inra Avignon 24 Hélène Gautier See the description



See also...

1. Ensuring top quality, high quantity production2. Minimizing the impact of cropping on biogeochemical cycles3. Managing pests and optimizing pesticide use4. Preserving water resources5. Developing and disseminating innovationsResearch units, training, networks and more



Other information

logo investissement d'avenir

The "Laboratoires d'excellence" (LabEx) selected by the Ministry of Education and Research "Agronomy and Sustainable Development" (Agro) is led by Agropolis Fondation and focuses on Plants of agronomic interest.
Information on Agropolis web site
Agropolis Fondation website

logo ESA Société européenne d'agronomieAgropolis International managed the secretariat of the European Society for Agronomy (ESA) from 2010 to 2016
Information in the Agropolis International newsletter
ESA European Society for Agronomy website

séminaire agroécologie MontpellierAgroecology monthly cycle of seminars in Montpellier 
Several joint agricultural research units in Montpellier from CIRAD, INRA, IRD and SupAgro have initiated a monthly cycle of seminars and debates, in partnership with Agropolis International, around Agroecology : ecological intensification of cropping systems.
See the page about the Agroecology monthly cycle of seminars in Montpellier, France 



Update on 21/08/17



Extrait du site