Understanding and accompanying the evolution of the strategies of orchard management on tree farms. Application to the phytosanitary protection of apple in France

Abstract : Markets ask for perfect looking fruits, without any symptoms of diseases or insect bites. To fulfill these criteria, fruit tree farmers spray pesticides that have negative impacts on human health and on the environment. Alternative methods can be risky and affect the economic performances of the farm. Based on the example of apple crop protection, the most sprayed fruit tree crop, this study addresses the following issue: which approach can be implemented to support fruit tree farmers in evaluating ways of changing their production strategies and their impacts on farm performances? The first phase of the study aims at describing and understanding the protection strategies implemented by farmers, and at evaluating their impacts on farm performances. Practices of pesticide use were analyzed using 557 spray records of a cooperative. Frequency, toxicity and efficiency indicators were used to evaluate practices’ environmental and health impacts. Then, 35 interviews were conducted in two regions of France, to understand farmers’ decision making processes that influence these practices, and to identify the levers and barriers for evolving towards less pesticide use. Despite a common climatic and marketing context, four types of pesticide use sets were identified. Three types showed a relatively important use of a given pesticide category: anti-scab, anti-insect, natural pesticides. The fourth one was balanced. Within each type, the different indicators covered a large range of scores. The frequency indicator covered a diversity of practices. It was not linked with the efficiency indicator, and it explained only a part of the plots’ environmental toxicity. Possible actions for improvements towards less pesticide use were discussed, such as taking into account the diversity of practices and improving the monitoring of the pests and diseases corresponding to the most sprayed pesticides. Studying the decision making processes at the farm scale highlighted three different strategies, depending on the farmers’ environmental and economic objectives. Each strategy was consistent regarding the farmers’ objectives, their marketing strategy, their labor resources, their position between diversification and specialization, and the apple area. Work organization and marketing strategy were considered as instrumental components for defining alternative strategies and for anticipating implementation difficulties. A methodology aiming at supporting fruit tree farmers in their strategical thinking towards innovative production strategies was developed during the second phase of the study. A simulation tool called CoHort was developed with two technicians. CoHort depicts the structure 7 of a tree fruit farm, the crop management per homogeneous block and its work organization. Each scenario corresponds to a specific configuration of the farm. It is evaluated in terms of economic and environmental performances and of impacts on work organization. The simulation results feed the discussions between farmers and their technicians on the potential evolutions of the farm. CoHort was used at first by addressing some farmers’ projects regarding their farm evolution projects. Then it was used on de novo scenarios allowing exploring new types of evolutions such as combining apple and sheep production within a farm. The analysis at both farm and plot scales permitted to capture the complexity and the diversity of the management processes observed in the farm sample surveyed. It provided the knowledge required to develop a support process based on a generic simulation tool, which can cover a large diversity of farm contexts and projects. A mid-term objective is to transfer CoHort to the technicians for extending their advice activities to strategic issues. The whole approach could also be used at the supply chain scale, or on other fruit tree crops. Indeed, enhancing transitions towards less pesticide used will require to involve the whole fruit supply chains.
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Solène Pissonnier. Understanding and accompanying the evolution of the strategies of orchard management on tree farms. Application to the phytosanitary protection of apple in France. Agronomie. Sup-Agro Montpellier, 2017. Français. ⟨tel-02082200⟩

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