Fungi, bacteria and earthworms: nourishing soil naturally
Agroecology involves refocusing on the functioning of soil and how it is nourished, as well as on preserving microorganisms: fungi, bacteria, earthworms. In this way, the soil alone produces the nutrients that plants need to avoid using chemicals. “We rely on nature to regulate the agricultural system itself. Agroecology puts nature back at the heart of agriculture,” explained Alice Auricombe, project coordinator at the Center for the Development of Agroecology (CDA). This consultancy and agricultural development center assists groups of farmers wishing to change their agricultural practices. In concrete terms, the consultancy firm helps more than 200 farmers every year in France to work the land in a more sustainable way, by limiting the use of chemicals to a minimum.
We rely on nature to regulate the agricultural system itself. Agroecology puts nature back at the heart of agriculture.
Elior supports this agricultural approach by helping to finance the Bulle Verte project. As part of the Badoit spring water protection program in Saint Galmier in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, the Bulle Verte is a group of about twenty farmers and breeders who contribute in their own way to protecting the water source. "Our aim is to reduce the use of chemicals because of their negative effects on the quality of the water and on biodiversity," explained Alice. For seven years, CDA has been supporting these volunteer farmers by offering training courses and enabling them to test concrete solutions to improve their practices over the long term. For example, using tea compost to fertilize pastures. "The macerated compost produces a liquid that contains fungi and bacteria, which will enable the soil to produce nutrients for the plants." This liquid is spread over the pasture to make it grow better and be more productive. These organic inputs therefore enable pastures to better resist global warming so that farmers can graze their livestock for longer periods of time. Another solution tested involves sowing a mixture of cereals in a pasture to increase its yield without the use of chemicals and tillage. Either the cows graze in the pasture, or the grains can be harvested and used as fodder to feed the animals later; a solution which helps boosts the pasture’s productivity.
Our aim is to reduce the use of chemicals because of their negative effects on the quality of the water and on biodiversity.
Ludovic Angénieux, a breeder in Chambœuf, is involved in the Bulle Verte project. For three years, he has been testing the effect of stopping working the soil in some of his plots before planting corn. Agroecology in fact promotes reducing tillage, because this practice degrades the quality and functioning of microorganisms. Ludovic explained: “I have a long-term perspective. We have to wait for the soil to recover naturally, for the life of the soil to return”. After several years running without ploughing the same plot, the soil and its microbiota have adapted. Ludovic is satisfied with the test results because the soil erosion of the plot has clearly decreased. Alice concluded: “The soil must be fertile and alive, notably with an abundance of earthworms, so that plants can grow without the addition of chemicals."