The second meeting of the Focus groups ‘Crop associations including Milpa and protein crops’, took place last May 29-30 in Toulouse, France, with a strong involvement of the IntercropVALUES project team. Focus group meetings are facilitated by the Support Facility ‘Innovation, Knowledge exchange | EIP-AGRI’. In this case, the program was organised and managed by Remco Schreuder.

Lionel Alletto (INRAE) explains the objectives and activities of the Co-innovation Case Study n4 to the participants of the Focus Group at a farm visit, together with one of the farmers hosting the visit.

During the meeting, the 20 Focus Group experts discussed the question of how to integrate crop associations into existing cropping systems and farm landscapes to increase farm resilience and efficient use of natural resources while reducing the dependency on external inputs.

As explained on the EUCAP Network website, their tasks include:

  • Identify, describe and classify with adequate examples, existing or new plant associations, adapted to each farming system within their landscapes and local/regional conditions.
  • Analyse the impact of the most promising crop associations on the environment, on the farmers’ productivity, profitability and resilience to climate change.
  • Identify their success and fail factors and barriers for implementation and adaptation in different regions.
  • Explore the role of innovation and knowledge exchange in addressing the challenges identified such as crop selection, crop rotation management, machinery, and product end use.
  • Propose potential innovative actions and ideas for Operational Groups to stimulate the use and improvement of crop associations at farm level considering the impact on the landscape.
  • Identify needs from practice and possible gaps in knowledge related to crop associations which may be solved by further research.

This second meeting was celebrated close to where IntercropVALUES bases its co Innovation case Study n4. This fact made it possible for IntercropVALUES partners to contribute to the meeting in several ways:

Eric Justes, project coordinator (CIRAD, based in Montpellier), presented the project on the morning of day 1; and Lionel Alletto (INRAE Toulouse), co-leader of the project package tasks dedicated to the Value chains for intercrops: co-innovation case studies, presented the objectives and activities of project co-innovation case studies and especially of the CICS#4, known as the ‘Occita’Mix’ case study, co-financed by the Agence de l’eau Adour-Garonne. Farmers and representatives from INRAE involved in this case study work together and enthusiastically to develop mixtures of species for food innovations adapted to original low-productivity contexts.

Participants of the Focus Group meeting, both experts and hosts, exchange knowledge on crop associations during one of the farm visits.

The afternoon was dedicated to visiting two farms in the Tarn (near Toulouse) that participate in the activities organised around CICS#4.

The 1st farm,  La Ferme d’Emilie et Martin – producteurs AB | Graines d’Authenticité (, is managed by an organic farming couple who grows a wide variety of species (from soft wheat to chia, millet, mungo beans…), both pure and in mixtures, and who have set up a whole seed sorting chain (right down to the optical sorter) on their farm.

The 2nd farm, Brasserie Garland – Bière biologique Karland, also organic, grows several species (wheat, barley, millet, buckwheat…), with several intercrops and also agroforestry, to produce malting barley for his brewery. They also grow their own hops (which is very rare in France, particularly in the CICS location). The farmer, very committed to the agro-ecological transition, started this adventure nearly 40 years ago.

Fanny Raoux (INRAE) supported the organization and guided the participants of the focus groups to these two farms, where they were able to exchange knowledge and pose questions.

Fanny Raoux (INRAE) and one of the farmers explain the activities they perform as part of the co-innovation case study n4 of IntercropVALUES.

One of the experts in this Focus Group is Christine Watson (SRUC), lead partner of IntercropVALUES tasks grouped in work package 3, dedicated to the “management of intercrops in cropping systems: GHGz, soil health, and machineries”.

“The Focus Group had two excellent visits which helped participants to understand the challenges faced by farmers in delivering high-quality products from intercropping”_Christine says. “The Focus Group participants asked a lot of questions from basic agronomy to machinery and on to questions about marketing strategies and where the farmers were able to get help and knowledge about intercropping.”

Christine Watson (SRUC) is one of the experts in the Focus Group on Crop Associations and leads WP3 on the management of intercrops in IntercropVALUES.

There was also the opportunity to discuss in detail the strategies for sorting seeds (combining rotary sorters, alveolar sorters, densimetric tables, optical sorters, etc.). Laurent Bedoussac (ENSFEA), co-leader of co-innovation case study #10 with FNCUMA (Federation nationale des coopératives d’utilisation de matériel agricole), a co-innovation case study based in West France and dedicated to “Shared equipment”, welcomed the participants at INRAE Toulouse.

The pictures for this article were taken by Lionel Alletto, Fanny Raoux and Eric Justes. This news item was written by Sonia Olza (INI) with the contributions of Christine Watson (SRUC), Fanny Raoux and Lionel Alletto (INRAE) and Eric Justes (CIRAD).