Diversity of protein-crop management in western France
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In the European Union (EU), local production of protein crops (faba bean, field pea, lupins) is of primary interest to help farmers depend less on purchased feed, provide agronomic benefits to cropping systems, and increase the EU’s protein self-sufficiency. Nonetheless, farmers rarely grow protein crops, which currently represent less than 1% of the EU’s arable land. We assumed that exploration of farmers’ practices will bring focus on (i) their motivations for growing protein crops, so that extension programs can be improved based on these motivations, and (ii) the diversity of their crop management so that promising ones can be disseminated. In western France, a two-step survey was conducted among farmers who grew protein crops. The first step was an online survey of 127 farmers that aimed to characterize their farming systems. The second step was a face-to-face survey (69 volunteers from the 127 farmers) that aimed to collect precise data on management of protein crops. The main motivations of surveyed farmers for growing protein crops were related to (i) replacing imported soybean with farm-grown protein crops and (ii) pre-crop values of protein crops (i.e., benefits of protein crops for subsequent crops). Based on conventional farmers’ answers, we estimated a pre-crop value of 118 € ha−1, which notably contributes to gross profit at the crop-rotation scale. Moreover, in our study, yields of protein crops did not differ significantly between conventional and organic systems. This offers an interesting opportunity for conventional systems to integrate organic practices, such as complex intercropping, to reduce variable costs (costs of seeds, pesticides, regulators, and chemical fertilizers) and increase gross profits. This study shows for the first time that, in western France, pre-crop values of protein crops and their suitability for low-input systems are undervalued and could be emphasized more strongly to encourage their adoption.
KeywordsProtein crops Faba bean Field pea Lupins Crop management systems Innovation Farm survey
We thank the project partners and students of AGROCAMPUS OUEST who performed the face-to-face surveys. We also thank Michelle L. Corson and Michael S. Corson for proofreading the English. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive remarks.
This work was funded by two French regions, Brittany and Pays de la Loire, in the project SECURIPROT.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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