Vincent Bretagnolle is studying alternatives to intensive agriculture over an area of 450 square kilometers of farmland south of Niort, in western France. He told CNRS News how reduced reliance on pesticides can increase farmers' incomes without affecting their production.
The LTSER Zone Atelier 'Plaine et Val de Sèvres' was set up in 1994 because we had come to the conclusion that the productivist agricultural model had run its course. It damages the environment and biodiversity, is harmful to health—first and foremost that of farmers—and is no longer economically viable, since income from agriculture continues to fall. This raises the question of which model needs to be invented for the future. At Chizé, we decided to investigate agroecology, in other words a form of sustainable farming making use of nature's resources. However, unlike most studies that rely on theoretical models or carried out at experimental stations, we test all our hypotheses under real conditions, thanks to the participation of nearly 200 farmers who have agreed to work with us over the last ten years.