Agricultural Activity concept for simulating strategic agricultural production decisions: Case study of weed resistance to herbicide treatments in South-West France
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Meriam Hammouda, Jacques Wery, Thierry Darbin, Hatem Belhouchette. (1/12/2018). Agricultural Activity concept for simulating strategic agricultural production decisions: Case study of weed resistance to herbicide treatments in South-West France. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, 155, pp. 167-179.
In an uncertain socio-economic and climatic context, sustainable farming is a major challenge for farmers as well as for their agricultural advisors. It is therefore essential to develop a decision support tool (DST) that is likely to be useful to establish and evaluate new production strategies, in accordance with farm sustainability and environmental protection. This paper aims, by using the Agricultural Activity concept, to put forward and test a DST based on mathematical programming used to evaluate strategic production decisions, in conjunction with farmers and agricultural advisors. In the test case, the decisions concern the crop activities and their spatiotemporal combinations in order to reduce both the use of herbicides and the risk of weed resistance to herbicides in cereal-based production systems. Moreover, the DST considers the availability of the workforce during the crop cycle to determine the periods which are likely to require the most significant increase in comparison to the current situation. One scenario showing the current situation (Sc_baseline) and two alternative scenarios have been defined to address the weed-herbicide issue. The comparison of the scenario promoting soil tillage and the introduction of spring crops with Sc_Baseline has shown that the adoption of long-term rotations, the increase in winter crop frequency and the return to deep soil tillage have contributed to an increase in farmer income, total labor and water consumption by 7, 21 and 22% respectively. However, the intensity of pesticide use and nitrate fertilization have dropped by 15% and 17% respectively. By allowing the farmer to establish specific contracts for certain crops, the average income as well as the use of pesticide and nitrate fertilization were increased by at least 10%. This situation is the result of a simplification of rotations with a predominance of winter cereals and the elimination of deep soil tillage. The analysis of these scenarios shows that the use of the DST has made it possible not only to put forward and evaluate alternatives that result in strategic decisions but also to understand, with the concept of Agricultural Activity, the biophysical and technical processes relating to farmer decisions and their impacts at field and farm level. Understanding and sharing this functional chain at farm level is expected to strengthen the farmer-advisor relationship in order to address the complex challenges of farming system sustainability.