Thème 6

Thème 6

Environmental impact of non-conventional farming and forestry practices

Coordinators : Maya Gonzalez et Laurence Denaix

Agriculture and forestry are undergoing radical change in response to the societal challenges of reducing energy consumption, recycling raw materials and limiting the negative effects of farming practices on the environment. A growing number of farmers and foresters are opting for different forms of agriculture (agroecology, conservation agriculture, organic farming, biodynamics), more diversified and extensive forestry, and agroforestry at the interface of the two. These choices translate into different management of fertilization, pesticide application, mechanization and ploughing, rotations (specific diversity and duration), and plant and soil biodiversity.

The aim of this theme is to assess the environmental impacts of these unconventional practices implemented by field workers. They are likely to induce changes in microclimate, nutrient availability, organic matter and carbon storage in soils, GHG emissions, water retention and soil physics, soil and organism contamination, as well as biodiversity. While these different impacts are generally studied separately, the originality of this theme is to consider several of them simultaneously by bringing together complementary scientific skills, in a way that cuts across the other themes of the UMR project. The aim is to identify the potential impacts of practices, to understand the mechanisms behind them using a multidisciplinary approach, and to integrate the quantified impacts into pre-existing decision-making tools or those developed by other units, in order to support transitions.

Identify and prioritize the environmental impacts of a given system on the physical environment and biotic-abiotic interactions

A practice or system designed to limit a particular impact can have both positive and negative consequences on other compartments of agricultural and forest ecosystems (e.g.: recycling waste products can contaminate soils while providing fertilizing elements). It is therefore essential to be able to analyze and quantify the impacts of a given practice on the soil, the atmosphere and living organisms, and to prioritize them in order to provide industry players and public decision-makers with the information they need to make an overall assessment.

Studying the environmental impacts of temporal changes in agricultural and forestry systems in transition

Implementing new practices and changing systems can be brutal or gradual. The aim here is to understand the temporal evolution of the agricultural or forest ecosystem when changing from one type of management to another, by analyzing the environmental impacts for the different stages, while taking into account the after-effects. The tools that can be mobilized in this approach are observation networks, workshop sites, modeling, etc.

Study the interfaces between systems and the disruption of cycles and flows by the spatial contiguity of different systems

An important issue is the coexistence of different cropping systems in the same area, with the possible impact of one cropping system on neighboring plots. The aim here is to analyze impacts at a spatial level, focusing on edge zones and fragmented landscapes.

Current projects
AC2TION - TETRAE program

The aim of the AC2TION project is to carry out a systemic and dynamic analysis of the environmental, agronomic and economic impacts of agroforestry in viticulture and field crops in the Neo-Aquitaine region, in order to support and accelerate the adaptation of agriculture to the challenges of tomorrow's farming in a changing climate.


Our ambition in the AC2TION project is to assess and quantify potential positive or deleterious effects, integrating them into an analysis of overall performance (environmental and socio-economic) so as to be able to steer transition trajectories by maximizing benefits while minimizing any negative impacts. As part of this project, ISPA will be focusing in particular on the impact of the presence of trees in plots on microclimate, soil fertility and biological activity, and carbon storage. In order to assess the sustainability of these systems, we will be projecting the effects observed today into the perspective of a future climate, in 2050, in order to propose adaptations to be undertaken today.

Modification date : 05 December 2023 | Publication date : 14 March 2023 | Redactor : Stéphane Thunot