illustration Guillaume Martin, agroecology in full swing
© INRAE, Yoann LEGUISTIN

Agroecology 5 min

Guillaume Martin, agroecology in full swing

Guillaume Martin, research director in the Joint Research Unit for Agrosystems and Territorial Development at INRAE’s Occitanie-Toulouse centre, received the 2019 Promising Researcher Award for his work in adapting livestock to climate change and the vagaries of the market. We spoke with this pioneering scientist who is committed to working hand in hand with livestock farmers to bring about the agroecological transition.

Published on 21 November 2019

For Guillaume, everything is related… at home, he grows organic fruits and vegetables. In his own garden, he keeps one foot in agroecology, the field his research continually tills. For the past ten years at INRA, he has been monitoring climate change and economic and regulatory fluctuations that take a toll on livestock farms, compromising their resilience. Grazing animals play a fundamental role in agroecology. “Grasslands, alone or in rotation with crops, bring many benefits:  they stock carbon in the soil, improve soil structure and fertility, and curb the growth of weeds”, he explains.

Of systemic agriculture and serious play

As opposed to targeted research , Guillaume’s approach is systemic. After several years spent observing the conversion of dairy cattle farms to organic models, he detected an improvement in their resilience, provided that the transition toward autonomous and economical grassland systems is made with unwavering resolve.  To this end, he developed a method to assess the resilience of livestock farms.  

Guillaume has also explored other levers of resilience as well, for example agreements between cereal growers and livestock farmers to integrate crops and livestock, which would lighten up the overall environmental footprint. He ran an international comparison of case studies in order to characterise factors that influence the emergence and results of cooperation between cereal growers and breeders, such as clear rules (e.g. prices, quantities and delivery deadlines).

 Guillaume is one of the first agronomists ever to develop a “serious game” known as Rami Fourrager®, or Forage Rummy, to ease the transition of grazing livestock, especially toward agroecology.  The game helps farmers come together to imagine and simulate the consequences of technical and organisational changes on their farms.

The freedom to explore, the desire to share

Guillaume’s ambition is two-fold: come up with original concepts, methods and knowledge for farmers and agricultural consultants, with whom he forges lasting partnerships. When it comes to research – both training people to do it and doing it himself – he is a particularly active player. “I especially like to get students involved in my projects. They play an important role in advancing my research. I strive to train them in the main aspects of the agriculture I practice: establishing strong ties in the field and with partners and staying open to a cross-disciplinary approach”.

The participation of livestock players is key

The winner of this award enjoys sharing his systemic agricultural approach with others in the Institute. First and foremost with his team, whose diversity is too valuable an asset in a stimulating scientific environment not to seize upon the opportunity to test the adaptability of framework ideas, knowledge, and methods. For Guillaume, the award is the pay-off for his efforts, and in particular for the risks he took early on in his career in choosing his field of study.

what's next?

Guillaume intends to keep the same enthusiasm for his work thanks to interesting projects, while enjoying the same freedom he has always had to follow through with his intuition. He works on several emerging topics: design and analysis of more diversified farms (e.g. multi-crop and multi-livestock) and more collective forms of agriculture (e.g. with cooperation between growers and breeders), and assessing their impact on agricultural and breeding practices and the performance of farms. This assessment phase is crucial to forecasting the consequences of applying these new agricultural models across the board within the framework of the agroecological transition.

Guillaume Martin and his team
Guillaume Martin with his colleagues.

 

Sandra Fuentestranslated by Inge Laino

Contacts

Guillaume MartinJoint Research Unit for Agroecology, Innovations and Territories (AGIR)

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