Permanent plant cover boosts production of dry matter to nourish the soil, increases the soil s capacity to store carbon and thereby reduces CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. SCA also reduces water erosion by protecting the soil s natural porosity. This stops mudslides that lead to soil loss on to roads and into rivers. Inversely, traditional tillage methods damage organic matter. Permaculture follows the same principles as SCA but it is limited to small areas of one hectare maximum. Organic farming, meanwhile, set out to address the question of chemical crop treatments by reducing them or even stopping them altogether. In my opinion, we should use chemicals appropriately. Organic farming should continue to exist but it also comes with costs and limits, particularly in terms of productivity and a lack of food safety controls. It is not appropriate for all surface areas. If it is climate change we are worried about then it is SCA we should be looking at.
What were the issues and considerations that made you adopt this model of agriculture?
I am 55 years old and I have been doing this job for 35 years. My leap into soil conservation agriculture developed from questions I began to ask during the 1990s: what changes should my business undergo to adapt to new economic and environmental demands? I live and work close to the Marais poitevin marshland (France). It has its own particular environment. In 1989 and 1990 we had severe drought with, on top of everything, serious water management problems. These circumstances were a catalyst for me.
Less than 5% of French farmers have chosen to adopt SCA. What are the obstacles and levers to the development of this agriculture?
There are two main reasons for the limited development of SCA. The first is that farming s economic stakeholders have shown no interest in it. What companies working with our sector would support farmers exploring this opportunity when there is no potential for added value on their products? The other obstacle, in the reverse logic, is that changes to farming practices focusing on soil did not originally meet recognised environmental criteria. As seasoned SCA farmers, we found ourselves in a sort of no man s land. SCA s slow growth is also due to the fact that it developed in poor or less favourable regions that do not have the aura of France s big farming regions.
If it is climate change we are worried about then it is SCA we should be looking at.