Transition to legume-based farming systems requires stable outlets, learning, and peer-networking

  • Marie MawoisEmail author
  • Andréa Vidal
  • Eva Revoyron
  • Marion Casagrande
  • Marie-Hélène Jeuffroy
  • Marianne Le Bail
Research Article


Legume cultivation has been declining for several decades in France and in Europe as a whole. This is the result of the agri-food system lock-in around major crops, which has led to a strong simplification of cropping systems and a specialization of territories, in which legumes have been marginalized. Introducing or increasing legume production on farms has become a key issue in many European countries. Studies investigating the process of change of farmers growing legumes are missing. We analyze here the trajectories of farms cultivating legumes, with a view to understanding how and why farmers have modified their practices over the long term and to what extent this can help to support further introduction of legumes on farms. We interviewed 26 farmers growing legumes, in two French regions (Burgundy and Pays de la Loire), to understand the changes of their practices in terms of legume introduction over time. We developed a methodology to analyze farmers’ trajectories based on the identification of (1) agronomic-coherence phases during which practices are stable and (2) the process of change from one coherence phase to another. The analysis of the 26 trajectories allowed us to distinguish four transitional pathways according to the speed of change, the type of legumes cultivated, and the level of legume introduction. Here, we show for the first time that the transition to a high and sustainable level of legume introduction in farms, whether progressive or as a rupture, required the combination of three levers: (1) the stability of outlets (on-farm consumption or market opportunities), (2) knowledge and local references on the preceding crop effect of legumes, and (3) the farmer’s involvement in peer-networks. Our results constitute a fruitful pathway to encouraging changes for both individual and collective support for farmers to facilitate the introduction of legumes.


Changes of practices Innovation Diversification Trajectory Transitional pathways Agricultural advisory services 



The authors thank the farmers from Burgundy and Pays de la Loire who took part in the survey for giving their time.

Funding information

This study was done with the financial support from the ANR Legitimes—AGOBIOSPHERE program (ANR-13-AGRO-0004).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USC1432 LEVA, INRA, Ecole Supérieure d’AgriculturesUniv. Bretagne Loire, SFR 4207 QUASAVAngersFrance
  2. 2.ISARA Lyon, Département Agroécologie et EnvironnementUniversité de LyonLyonFrance
  3. 3.ITAB (Institut Technique de l’Agriculture Biologique)Saint Marcel les ValenceFrance
  4. 4.UMR Agronomie, INRA, AgroParisTechUniversité Paris-SaclayThiverval-GrignonFrance
  5. 5.UMR SAD-APT, INRA, AgroParisTechUniversité Paris-SaclayParisFrance

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