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

Agronomy : crops and cropping systems

UMR SYSTEM Tropical and Mediterranean Cropping System Functioning and Management

Member institutes and partners  : CIHEAM-IAM.M, Cirad, Inra, Montpellier SupAgro

The joint research unit (UMR) Tropical and Mediterranean Cropping System Functioning and Management (SYSTEM, CIRAD, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro) focuses on agronomic aspects of cropping systems. It produces knowledge and tools for assessing and designing cropping systems that combine economic performance and preservation of natural resources and the environment. Emphasis is placed especially on the use of biological diversity of crop species and management of crop associations in order to achieve steady agricultural performance (yield and quality) under socially acceptable conditions, while reducing environmental impacts and natural resource use.

The main hypothesis tested is that the crop association structure and management method can be designed—on plot, farm or territorial scales—for multifunctional and multispecies systems.

The research is focused mainly on associations of perennial plants with productive functions (fruit, wood) and ‘service’ species, aiming at optimize the system performance with limited input use. The reference cropping systems are:

  • forestry-arable crop systems (row crops, mechanization, with trees and grain or forage crops)
  • coffee cropping systems with shade tree cover
  • viticultural systems with row intercropping
  • agroforestry systems with coffee and cocoa.

The unit is organized around two teams:

  • The ‘Analysis and modelling of multi-species cultivated field’ (AMPLUS) team generates knowledge on the biophysical functioning of multispecies crop fields with the aim of optimizing their structure and management, while emphasizing multifunctionality under climatic and production system constraints.
  • The ‘Design of cropping systems’ (CONSYST) team develops methods for assessing existing systems and designing new ones on the basis of the agroecological principles presented above, in given socioeconomic and biophysical contexts.

These teams work with a technical and engineering team (‘Cropping systems, modelling, experimentation’) to produce indicators, models and tools, in partnership with development organizations and companies.

In temperate agroforestry conditions, agroforestry plots located in a station for long-term experimental studies (Vézénobres, Restinclières, France) are compared with agricultural and forestry control plots. In this work, the unit supervises other research and development teams.

In integrated viticultural systems, cropping systems that provide environmental services are tested at the Domaine du Chapitre (Hérault, France). A long-term experiment on low-input cropping systems will be set up in collaboration with the Domaine viticole de l’INRA (Bordeaux, France) and development partners (Institut Français de la Vigne et du Vin, inter-branch professions).

For tropical agroforestry systems (farmers’ and experimental plots in Costa Rica and Cameroon), the research platform in partnership (PCP) Agroforestry Systems with Perennial Crops in Costa Rica has formalized relations with the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza and various Central American institutions. The PCP ‘Grand Sud Cameroun’ associates several CIRAD research units with the Institut de Recherche Agricole pour le Développement, and the Universités de Dschang et de Yaoundé 1.

The Association Française d’Agroforesterie is the unit’s major link with agricultural development for field transfer of research knowledge. The UMR also benefits from the Montpellier research network based project ‘Towards a federative research on modelling and simulation platforms’ and that of the Record project to facilitate exchanges within an international network on the integrated modelling of agricultural systems. Moreover, a European partnership initiated by the unit as part of the Seamless project (integrated assessment of agricultural systems) is now firmly established in an association with the same name, which will provide a framework for new initiatives with the Universities of Wageningen and Bonn

Director: Christian Gary

20  scientists

Unit website

List of research examples/projects for the resarch unit UMR SYSTEM Tropical and Mediterranean Cropping System Functioning and Management on Agronomy: crops and cropping systems topics

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 (...)

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 (...)

Effects of shade trees on pests and diseases of Arabica coffee

Unshaded rust-infected coffee plantation in Papua New Guinea. J.Avelino © CIRAD

Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) may be monocropped, generally in intensive cropping systems. It is often grown under shade in agroforestry systems ranging from simple associations of two woody species to complex systems resembling natural ecosystems. The susceptibility of modern cropping systems, especially to pests and diseases, has partly been attributed (...)

Impact of coffee-based agroforestry systems on water quality and in reducing erosion phenomena

Llano Bonito valley, Tarrazú region, Costa Rica. Trees are generally intercropped with coffee, in highly variable proportions. © B. Rapidel

Cropping systems have been widely assessed for their production capacity and impacts on natural resources. Agroforestry systems (AFS), in which several plant species are intercropped in a plot, including trees, can successfully meet these two challenges. Generally AFS, especially those based on tree crops like coffee, are very widespread in Central America. Many (...)

Organic viticulture–integrated analysis of the conversion to organic agriculture

Vineyard in the process of conversion to organic agriculture. © A Mérot

Organic agriculture (OA) is an ideal framework for setting up more sustainable cropping systems, especially for viticultural systems in which pesticide treatments are substantially used. OA conversions are occurring at a fast pace in viticulture, especially in Mediterranean vineyards (+ 20% between 2006 and 2008 according to Agence Bio) even though the knowledge (...)

Adaptive management strategies for soil maintenance in viticulture

Grass cover—sown or natural—in vineyards maintains the soil while also providing different services concerning viticultural production and its environmental impact. However, three problems hamper its adoption in Mediterranean regions: having two coexisting plant covers under limited water and nitrogen resource conditions, determining a management method that (...)


Update on 19/04/12


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