Your research activity focuses on agricultural equipment. What type of expertise do you provide?
Research conducted by the PEPS team on spraying optimisation has enabled government agencies to identify scientific and technical expertise in this area. This naturally led to requests from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to draw up guidance and recommendations on regulatory changes. Thus, since 2006, IRSTEA was cited in a decree as an expert organisation for the Ministry of Agriculture for spraying, and especially as it pertains to environmental protection, whether for aquatic areas, non-target plants and crops, or operators, and more recently, for people living near sprayed areas. Around 60 substances are examined each year to be included on a regulatory list. More specifically, the aim is to verify that these substances are suitable for agricultural use as well as that they meet restrictions on spray drift. In addition to providing this type of expertise on a recurring basis, the team may also deal with more specific referrals.
One last type of activity involves creating standardised protocols and drafting international ISO or CEN standards, as well as developing – in partnership with the French Vine and Wine Institute (IFV) through the Ecotech Joint Technology Unit – a classification of devices according to their agricultural and environmental performance.
Supporting public policymakers requires bringing partial blocks of scientific knowledge together into an operational whole
How does this expertise inform scientific inquiry?
It is easier to conduct spray research in the lab under controlled conditions to study liquid atomization or to simulate the atmospheric transfer of sprayed products in a wind tunnel. Supporting public policymakers requires bringing partial blocks of scientific knowledge together into an operational whole or developing an expert opinion that can be scaled up and implemented along with changes in user practices to meet higher agricultural and environmental standards. This may involve creating research tools on an intermediate scale between the laboratory and the field such as artificial vine and orchard vegetation, or a 25-square-metre artificial wind turbine. This scale is key to quickly developing useful basic knowledge that can help us first understand different phenomena by removing variability in plant architecture in the field to then be able to inform more responsive policy decisions.
So ultimately, there are several dimensions to this expertise?
There are two main dimensions to this expertise. The first ranges from a local to an international level, because the issues my team handles are the same in many other countries. Useful results are produced through joint scientific efforts in European projects such as H2020 OPTIMA or international standards. The second dimension goes from the public sector, with, for instance, the European BTSF training courses, to industry, with collaborations such as R&D partnerships with agricultural equipment or adjuvant manufacturers. We may also play a role as mediator between these two worlds, especially when it comes to regulatory changes.