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Returning Organic Residues to Agricultural Land (RORAL) - Fuelling the follow-the-technology approach

Wassenaar T., Doelsch E., Feder F., Guerrin F., Paillat J.M., Thuriès L., Saint Macary H.. 2014. Agricultural Systems, 124 : p. 60-69.

Rehabilitating disrupted nutrient cycles through organic residue recycling in agriculture may represent a win-win lever, particularly in urban-agricultural areas, with benefits at both ends of the food chain. It carries the promise of enhancing agriculture's eco-efficiency and resilience while reducing environmental pressure in urban and downstream areas. After several decades of largely unsatisfactory attempts to promote recycling practices through ad hoc transfer-of-technology approaches, this paper proposes an epistemological base for RORAL research. It represents a shift to a more modest 'follow-the-technology' (Douthwaite et al., 2002) paradigm and implies that such research would benefit from being organized as a specific and coherent interdisciplinary research area. The way our research unit deals with these challenges is presented as an example. Starting from site-specific applied analytical research, an agro-environmental 'plausible promise' is transformed to a system-level promise before being fed into a facilitated participatory integrated natural resource management (INRM) process. RORAL team members then participate as active stakeholders in this process. Intermediary INRM outcomes can give rise to new applied and basic research needs. A proof of concept case study involving implementation of the RORAL approach in Réunion is presented. This isolated territory with very limited natural resources, particularly arable land, and increasing demographic pressure represents one out of two types of high-potential areas. While showing how RORAL research is guided by site-specific knowledge gaps, this case study highlights how it also allows building up a capital of generic knowledge and skills in parallel. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : déchet agricole; déchet organique; Énergie renouvelable; recyclage des déchets; engrais organique; gestion des ressources naturelles; agroécologie; réunion

Thématique : Chimie et physique du sol; Systèmes et modes de culture

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