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

Agronomy : crops and cropping systems

UPR AIDA Agro-ecology and Sustainable Intensification of Annual Crops

Member institutes and partners  : Cirad

The internal research unit (UPR) Annual Cropping Systems (SCA, CIRAD) conducts research on smallholder farming in developing countries. These regions are characterized by high population growth, limited land access and high dependency on increasingly irregular rainfall, fragile erosionprone soils, difficult and volatile socioeconomic conditions and, especially, limited access to markets and credit.

The unit aims to develop cropping systems that preserve, while making sustainable use of, natural resources in tropical farming systems that boost their productivity and reduce the environmental impacts of farming. Besides the well-being of the rural people involved, the recent hunger riots highlighted the fact that local produce is crucial for feeding constantly-growing urban populations.

For these populations, the ‘ecological intensification’ challenge is to produce more, more regularly, through greater use of ecosystem services. For the unit’s researchers, processes involved in crop production must be considered from different angles in order to come up with alternative cropping strategies.

With this new approach, the ‘soilplant-atmosphere’ unit is considered as a biological system that is favourable to limited (or even nil) application of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and irrigation. The crop field is also considered as an open social system with respect to the functioning of farms and production subsectors.

UPR SCA is organized in five research teams:

  • CARABE (Characterization and Integrated Management of Biotic Risks for Cultivated Ecosystems) studies the effects of farming practices and cropping systems—as factors responsible for variations in the spatiotemporal availability of resources (trophic, habitat)—on pest and disease control and regulation.
  • QUALITE (Product Quality Elaboration and Management) focuses on agricultural product (raw and processed) characterisation and quality development processes. It also studies management of this product quality via stakeholders’ practices on field, landscape and industry scales.
  • ADEMES (Decision Support, Spatial Organization and Production Chain Economics) complements this approach on the spatialization and organization of supply areas. These activities include fibre (cotton) and sugar (sugarcane) production, while encouraging openings in favour of energy subsectors (sugarcane and Jatropha).
  • CESCA (Knowledge and Modelling of Annual Cropping System Functioning) aims to design and assess annual cropping systems that meet ecological sustainability, economic viability and social equity imperatives. The biophysical aspect of practices (conservation agriculture, pest regulation, livestockcrop integration, etc.) is studied in interaction with the social sciences and humanities.
  • SCRiD (Sustainable Farming and Rice Cropping Systems) conducts research in Madagascar with the aim of developing rainfed rice-based cropping systems in close collaboration with national agricultural research agencies and the Université d’Antananarivo.

The unit conducts research in the fields of agronomy, entomology, weed science, plant breeding, biomathematics, economy and technology, with activities under way in Réunion, sub- Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali, Cameroon, Benin), Kenya, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Brazil. It has collaborations and researcher exchanges with USA and Australia.

Director: Eric Scopel

56  scientists

Unit website


Florent Maraux, Cirad, France au congrès Agro2010 Montpellier from agropolis International on Vimeo.

Directeur de l’unité « Systèmes de culture annuels », Cirad.

Consultez le site de l'unité :

List of research examples/projects for the resarch unit UPR AIDA Agro-ecology and Sustainable Intensification of Annual Crops on Agronomy: crops and cropping systems topics

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 (...)

Monitoring pest insect movements to enhance sustainable agrosystem management in sub-Saharan Africa

Tomato fruitworm </em>(Helicoverpa armigera) <em>on a tomato plant. © T. Brévault

Understanding the spatial dynamics of pests in agrosystems, which consist of a shifting patchwork of cultivated and noncultivated habitats, facilitates prediction of outbreak risks and planning of targeted control of upsurge hotspots. This knowledge also enables ex-ante development of cropping systems in which pests are effectively managed on different (...)

Beninese farmers’ perceptions of climate change and their adaptation strategies

Negative impacts of adverse weather in the village of Alfakoara, northern Benin. © R. Dimon

This research is focused on the adaptation of family agriculture to climate change. Based on the assumption that changes can best be described by those exposed to them, a survey of farmers was carried to determine their perceptions of the phenomenon and consequences on the environment and their daily lives. Technical adaptations adopted to deal with changes were (...)

Sustainable production and innovation for smallholders in developing countries

Bean crop under DMC in Madagascar. © E. Scopel

The improvement and stabilization of smallholders’ agricultural production are key challenges for international agronomic research. Soils in tropical environments are varied but fragile and the climatic conditions are harsh, with a high probability of catastrophic events occurring. Socioeconomic conditions for smallholders in such regions are also often difficult (...)


Update on 19/04/12


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