On Thursday 29th of February 2024, around thirty stakeholders from the agricultural and food sectors of south-west France came together for a multi-actor workshop on the subject of intercropping. The workshop, organised by INRAE and the Chamber of Agriculture as part of the IntercropVALUES / Occita’Mix project (funded by Horizon Europe and the Adour-Garonne Water Agency), took place at the Flamarens agricultural high school in Lavaur, a training centre for future farmers.

Intercropping is an agronomic practice that offers multiple ecosystem services. Particularly well suited to low-input systems, it can (i) increase agricultural productivity per unit area, (ii) reduce the pressure of certain pests and (iii) reduce environmental impact (few/no pesticides applied, little nitrogen added, better recycling of nutrients, etc.). It also makes it possible to improve certain grain quality criteria, such as the protein content of cereals and is an effective way of introducing legumes into farming systems.

However, this practice is still not widespread, as there are many barriers to its implementation at all levels of the value chain. It was with the ambition to identify the barriers and levers to the adoption of intercropping at a local level that this workshop was held.

The multi-actor group for this workshop was made up of:

  • Farmers producing intercrops, some of whom sort them on their farms,
  • Sorting organisations, ranging from mobile sorters on farms owned by cooperatives to facilities capable of handling large volumes.
  • Short and long chain processing companies.
  • Actors involved in setting up school kitchens to encourage short, local and organic supplies.
  • Representatives of local authorities and regional food projects.
  • Representatives of consumer organisations.
  • Public institutes supporting the agro-ecological transition.

The results of this multi-actor exchange show that the barriers are of various nature, multiple and present at all stages of the value chain:

  • Production: complexity of sowing and harvesting, varieties not available.
  • Seed sorting: high cost, limited/unsuitable equipment, lack of sorting skills.
  • Processing: flours “stained” by broken legumes, creating real blockages.
  • Marketing: zero tolerance of residues (broken grains) of a 2nd species because of the risk of allergens (gluten), lack of consumer awareness of this agro-ecological practice.

Accurately identifying these barriers is a key step towards removing them and developing the practice. This is an important part of the work being carried out as part of the European IntercropVALUES project. During the workshop, Céline Chevalier from UCLouvain – Université catholique de Louvain presented her work on analysing barriers at a European scale to the group of stakeholders gathered at the Lycée de Flamarens.

The workshop, organised and run by Fanny Raoux, a research engineer on the IntercropVALUES project, with the help of Margot Leclère and Céline Chevalier, enabled CICS#4 to go further in formalising and ranking the barriers and identifying ways of overcoming them.

The outcome was very positive, with many rich and constructive discussions, and the prospect of drafting concrete proposals to further improve the strategies for supporting the agro-ecological transition.

This news item was writen by Fanny Raoux (INRAE, team of South West France in IntercropVALUES)

For more information, you can contact:

 lionel.alletto@inrae.fr ; fanny.raoux@inrae.fr