Before, I just did like everyone else…

7 février 2019
 

About a dozen farmers who took part in the trials implemented within the scope of the LIFE Alister project met up in the middle of December, at the invitation of the Chamber of Agriculture and ONCFS (French National Hunting and Wildlife Agency), for a friendly and informal discussion over a flame-grilled tart, preceded by workshops that enabled the actions and shared progress to be evaluated.

In spite of the sometimes disappointing technical results for some of the trials, partly due to the particularly erratic weather in Alsace in recent years and partly due to a great number of technical points that still have to be controlled, the farmers gave a very positive assessment of their participation in the project. A project that enabled them to experiment with new practices as well as opening up to new ways of thinking and seeing things.

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Generally positive testimonies with some criticism

« Before, I just did like everyone else without thinking about it. Due to the project trials, as well as the courses, study trips and suggested measures for saving the hamster, I’ve modified my system. Ten years ago, I was growing maize in monoculture, but now it’s completely different.  »

« We’ve learnt new things, new techniques, an understanding of how the soil, plants and auxiliary plants work; it’s a new way of looking at our work. »

« At certain times it was interesting to be able to reflect together, in CUMA de la Plaine and meetings »

« I realised that for years, my practices haven’t been in line with my aspirations, I didn’t really think about it but I wasn’t satisfied and that motivates me to look for techniques that will enable me to stop using certain products. »

The farmers considered that the technical trials for under-seeding that have not yet been mastered, should not however be abandoned. Among the difficulties encountered, they deplored a certain strictness in the way the trials were carried out, relating to logistics and the multi-stakeholder operations of the actions; they would have preferred to have been more involved in the creation and process of some of the trials rather than only focussing on the biological needs of the hamsters.

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There is still a lot to be done

When asked about the work to be continued after the project, the farmers made many suggestions, such as intercropping legumes, under-seeding with species and sowing dates better suited to the weather in Alsace, no-till, growing wheat in a permanent cover of alfalfa, and even the idea of starting to test methods and cropping systems that would enable glyphosate to be phased out, since this substance may be banned in the near future. For that, they need to be assisted by agronomists, continue to discuss with other innovative farmers, continue to reflect and share their experiences locally with their neighbours. Access to specific farm machinery and scientific and technical knowledge about topics relating to agro-ecology and soil conservation techniques is also essential. Even if the work carried out during the LIFE Alister project probably plays only a small part, it seems it has introduced social innovations as much as techniques in the way of working in the farming profession.

Seeds have been sown. Now they must be taken care of as we hope that conditions will be right for a good harvest.

About the same subject: agricultural tutorials

Interview with Hubert Charpentier

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