Our French case study in the Tarn (Occita’Mix, also funded by the Adour Garonne water agency), CICS 04, is working with innovative farmers in the south-west region of France (Tarn/Haute-Garonne) on a wide variety of crop associations.

Soil depletion, erosion, and climate change are at the heart of these farmers’ concerns. For them, it is inconceivable to continue producing without combining species and varieties in this context. There is a strong desire among farmers to create new quality products from intercrops, to succeed in developing value chains adapted to climate change.

But this can only be achieved collectively!

On Friday 23rd of June, the group of farmers met at the Agriculture High School in Flamarens (Tarn) to work on the choice of species mixes to be planted on their farms for the next growing season.

It was also an opportunity to:

  • Discuss the benefits, performances, and difficulties of managing intercropping systems,
  • to help farmers who are just starting with the composition of the mixes and the technical itineraries,
  • to work with the school’s teachers of agronomy to develop several modalities of intercrops that students can try out and monitor during their school year.

Elements from the serious game Interplay© helped to guide the discussions.

Among farmers, we’ll be working with the Pierre Fabre company’s farm to produce oats for cosmetics, combined with various legume species for even greater sustainability! In addition to well-known intercrops such as wheat-fava bean or wheat-clover, some innovative mixtures have emerged: multi-species (sorghum-rapeseed-clover), soya-chia, mungo bean-chia, or millet.

Soybean-Millet intercrop (left) and pure soybean (right)

Millet used to be a much more common crop in France. It is rarely found in French fields nowadays though it has many benefits: it is resistant to drought and diseases and also competes well with weeds. It has proven to be an interesting plant for diversifying crop rotation and for low-input systems.

It can be cooked as whole seeds (risotto, patties…), flakes, and semolina. Some of the farmers from Occita’Mix even use it to produce beer! INRAE researchers from UMR IATE will be working on the technological and nutritional characterisation of millet flours starting this autumn!

Occita’Mix is working with local authorities to promote the products of local producers. As a result, a collective intelligence workshop is due to be held in autumn 2023 to coordinate the public kitchens’ staff of the Tarn-Agout local community with farmers. It is a real lever for supporting an agro-ecological transition in the Tarn region!

This news item was written by Fanny Raoux and Lionel Alletto (INRAE, France). For more information, please contact: Fanny RAOUX at fanny.raoux@inrae.fr and Lionel ALLETTO at lionel.alletto@inrae.fr