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Agroecology, strategic research at INRA and CIRAD

As a scientific discipline, agro-ecology is often seen as a cross between ecology and agriculture, aimed at designing and managing sustainable agro-ecosystems. It also draws on economics and social sciences to develop reliable systems and roll them out through appropriate public policy and support mechanisms. Agro-ecology therefore offers a new paradigm for creating sustainable food systems.

Agro-ecology, strategic research at INRA and CIRAD. © INRA
Updated on 02/13/2017
Published on 11/28/2016

In their policy brief, INRA and CIRAD identified agroecology as one of their top scientific priorities, in line with:

  • societal expectations
  • the challenges of sustainable development in the face of global change
  • public policy in France (Agroecology project) and several developing countries in favour of agroecology
  • international initiatives such as those of the UN (Sustainable Development Goals) and the FAO to promote sustainable agriculture.

Agroecology, 5 lines of research for INRA and CIRAD

Across the globe, agroecology is a major axis for developing sustainable and multiperformance agriculture. Five lines of research to
pave the way for agroecology:

  • boost biodiversity and biological regulation
  • optimize the major biogeochemical cycles
  • manage landscapes and territories
  • evaluate and redesign production systems
  • rethink innovation systems and ease transitions

Agro-ecology. © INRA
Agro-ecology © INRA

Agroecology at INRA and CIRAD (8-pages, download PDF)


A field of research which is gaining ground

The use of the term agroecology in scientific literature is relatively limited (approximately 1,500 articles since the 1950s). Nevertheless, close to 6,000 articles published each year deal with life sciences within agroecosystems, combining ecology, agricultural sciences, environmental sciences and human and social dimensions. For both INRA and CIRAD, agroecology is gaining ground quickly as a research topic, with nearly 450 articles referenced in 2014.

On the subject of

FAO symposium on agroecology, 23-25 November 2016

More than 200 delegates from 40 European and Central Asian countries attended the FAO symposium held in Budapest (Hungary) to debate on agroecology. Public and private decision-makers, scientists, experts and representatives from civil society examined agricultural practices and food systems, identified opportunities for innovation and envisaged how agroecology should be put into practice to help different countries reach new goals of sustainable development. With two speakers from INRA on the agenda:

Jean-François Soussana at the FAO agroecology symposium in Budapest, 24 November 2016. © INRA, Allison Loconto
Jean-François Soussana at the FAO agroecology symposium in Budapest, 24 November 2016 © INRA, Allison Loconto
Jean-François Soussana, scientific director for the environment at INRA, presented concepts of innovation, the role of research in agronomy and in social and economic sciences as well learning processes in agroecological transitions.

Stéphane Bellon, coordinator of research in organic agriculture at INRA, studied as a prototype of innovative agriculture, spoke on the foundations and directions of agroecology.

Allison Loconto at the FAO agroecology symposium in Budapest, 25 November 2016. © INRA, Figeczky G.
Allison Loconto at the FAO agroecology symposium in Budapest, 25 November 2016 © INRA, Figeczky G.
Eliel Gonzalez Garcia, researcher in animal physiology focused his talk on livestock farming and agroecology. He went through 40 research issues to redesign the animal production systems of the 21st century.

Allison Loconto, researcher in sociology at the INRA Research Centre of Versailles-Grignon, presented institutional innovations favouring local markets for sustainable agriculture.

Agroecology for food and agriculture: INRA’s contribution to FAO

Research carried out between 2013 and 2015 by INRA and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has come to fruition in a published report presented on 29 August 2016 during an international symposium in China. The report also featured in a satellite event during the 43rd session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), co-organised by INRA, FAO and IFOAM, from 17 to 21 October 2016.

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