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Saint Laurent de la Prée experimental domain is heading towards Agro-ecology

Since 2009, the Saint Laurent de la Prée experimental domain designs and evaluates an autonomous and biodiversity-friendly cropping-livestock system in marshes. This project involves the entire unit: 16 staff work, 200 ha of crops and meadows and 120 cows (maraîchine breed). The latter was presented to the Inra Poitou-Charentes partners on Tuesday 15 October 2013 in Saint Laurent de la Prée.

Vaches de race maraichine dans une prairie du domaine de l'Inra à Saint Laurent de la Prée.. © INRA, NICOLAS Bertrand
By Inra Poitou-Charentes communications department
Updated on 12/20/2013
Published on 10/16/2013

Unlike the other experiment of the centre  (Alteravi, Patuchev, Oasys), this one was not built from scratch but created on the existing  Saint Laurent research farm. . The key focus is on enhancing biodiversity and autonomy. With the advice of a scientific committee, staff work are discussing jointly on the next actions to carry out. After going through a storm of wind (Xynthia) and two droughts, the experimental system has given its first results since 2012.

Autonomy and biodiversity promoted

Whereas the domain used to sell its crops and purchase feed for the herd, nowadays it partly produces on site what needs animals to be fed: alfalfa, peas, wheat, triticale…In that way, fertilizer purchases have declined and instead of exporting manure, it is now used to fertilize crops. In addition to crop diversification, some legume and grass species was sod-seeded to create various habitats, favourable to auxiliary insects. Shorter lengths of time pasture are currently tested over three successive plots in order to generate heterogeneous grass heights to attract different shorebirds species. Besides, the staff work is continuously thinking of introducing reedbeds and trees on farm.

An agricultural production economically viable

Concerning breeding, the establishment of autumn calving, in addition to the spring one, is a way to increase calve ’sales- for this time of the year when the supply remains relatively low. By diversifying those productions as well as the exploitation management, the experimental domain is having a better resistance to economic and climatic uncertainties. A step by step approach where the environmental, economic and social consequences of the implemented changes are evaluated. If the current Saint Laurent farm is not a ready to use delivery, its innovations and evaluating tools provide guidance to farmers who intend to undertake an agro-ecology transition.