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Adoption of conservation agriculture in Europe. Lessons of the KASSA project

Lahmar R.. 2010. Land Use Policy, 27 (1) : p. 4-10. Workshop on Farm-level Adoption of Soil and Water Conservation Measures and Policy Implications in Europe, 2006-10-01/2006-10-03, Wageningen (Pays-Bas).

DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2008.02.001

According to KASSA findings, conservation agriculture is less adopted in Europe compared to other adopting regions and, reduced tillage is more common than no-tillage and cover crops. Currently, it is not popularised and it is less researched. The lack of knowledge on conservation agriculture systems and their management and, the absence of dynamic and effective innovation systems make it difficult and socio-economically risky for European farmers to give up ploughing which is a paradigm rooted in their cultural backgrounds. In Norway and Germany the adoption of conservation agriculture has been encouraged and subsidised in order to mitigate soil erosion. In the other European countries the adoption process seems mainly driven by farmers and, themajor driving force has been the cost reduction in machinery, fuel and labour saving. Soil and water conservation concerns did not appear as main drivers in the European farmers' decision to shift or not to conservation agriculture. The shift of European farmers to conservation agriculture is being achieved through a step-by-step attitude, large scale farms are the most adopters. This adoption trend may grow in the future. Indeed, the need to improve farms' competitiveness, the market globalization and the steady increase of fuel cost will likely contribute to arouse European farmers' interest in conservation agriculture as it slashes significantly the production costs. Conservation agriculture is not equally suitable for all the European agroecosystems. The need of soil and water conservation in Europe requires anticipating the ongoing process in order to improve its ecological and socio-economic sustainability. Priority would be to define which regions in Europe are the most suitable for conservation agriculture taking into account climate and soil constraints, length of growing period, water availability and quality, erosion hazards and farming conditions. Policy favouring the use of soil cover and profitable crop rotations as management strategies for weed, pest and diseases control will certainly allow developing and disseminating efficient and acceptable conservation agriculture systems.

Mots-clés : agriculture alternative; non-travail du sol; travail du sol; pratique culturale; système de culture; conservation des sols; conservation de l'eau; adoption de l'innovation; lutte antiérosion; europe; agriculture de conservation

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