"A regenerative agriculture approach"
Maïsadour : What are the priority areas for R&I research to support our members?
Fabien Skiba : The first area is irrigation management.
Maïsadour develops and deploys digital tools for its members. “Irri’Farm” is a concrete example: it uses intelligent sensors to monitor and regulate irrigation.
A network of “Weenat” rain gauges can be connected to provide real-time data. The whole system can be adapted to the climatic conditions to meet the specific needs of crops.
The Group is also experimenting with sustainable irrigation strategies. The initial results of a trial, carried out in 2022, to control irrigation with limited volumes are promising.
We are also studying future solutions such as the use of satellite images or radar images.
The aim here is to supply the right amount of water at the right time, to maximise yield.
M: And the second priority ?
F.S.: “Inventing” the crops of tomorrow, through upstream varietal research. The R&I department at MAS Seeds (Seeds Division) is working to create crop varieties that are better able to adapt to drought (heat resistance, water requirements, etc.).
M : What is the aim of this research?
F.S.: All this research is part of a more global approach to regenerative agriculture, promoting environmentally-friendly practices among farmers.
We are more committed than ever to this issue of the future. In September, an apprentice will be joining us for several years to work on water management on farms.
"The farming world has made great progress"
Maïsadour : What is the Lourden lake ?
Gilles Dufau: The Lourden lake – or Duhort-Bachen dam reservoir – is a hill dam that was impounded in 1987. Its purpose is to maintain a minimum water level in the Adour during the summer. Its water is therefore useful to farmers, but also to the population as a whole.
M: What is an ASA (Association syndicale autorisée / Authorised syndicate association) and what is its purpose?
G.D. : An ASA is a group of irrigators. The Duhort-Bachen ASA, which I chair, enables the joint, organised use of the
reservoir’s facilities (pumping, conveyance, etc.) and the pooling of investments. Each member subscribes to a surface area and a corresponding volume of water. Without the ASA, some members would never have had access to water and some crops would never have been grown in the area.
M: Has the concern about water increased?
G.D.: We are indeed experiencing more intense periods of both rain and drought. We know what the future will bring. The year 2022 was very complicated: at the end of the season, the lake was at the bottom of the reserve, 10% full. I’m sorry we can’t store more, but we have to be able to store the water that falls in winter.
M: Have your practices adapted?
G.D.: The agricultural world has already adapted a lot and made great progress. I’ve seen a real evolution in precision farming, in practices …. Water management is much more precise and monitored than it was a few decades ago. Water is used more efficiently: equipment has improved and connected farming software means we can manage our water inputs more effectively.
M: How can we prepare for the future?
G.D.: I think the solution lies in the soil. It’s a farmer’s most important asset. We have to conserve and maintain our soil so that it needs less water and uses it better when it has it. For example, on our farm, we haven’t ploughed for 20 years, we work with plant cover, simplified practices…
M: What can Maïsadour do for you?
G.D.: I often talk to my technician and find out about Maïsadour trials. The work of the cooperative groups, alongside other players, is essential in raising farmers’ awareness and helping them to change their practices.
"A reservoir is a virtuous circle for ecology"
Maïsadour : Can you tell us about your project?
Michaël Dolet-Fayet: My project involves extending the reservoir created on the farm a few years ago. It will enable us to water an extra 30 hectares and increase the area under kiwifruit. Rather than invest in non-irrigated land, I prefer to optimise the land I already have.
A reservoir is a virtuous circle for the environment. By capturing run-off water, it reduces the risk of flooding. It also recovers drainage water when I water my kiwifruit in the spring. In this way, I can optimise water use as much as possible.
M: How was this project carried out?
M.D-F.: I worked with the Chamber of Agriculture to put the project together, and I also called in a consultancy firm to carry out the technical studies and the applications for authorisation, etc. To make this investment profitable, I suggest growing crops with high added value. Thanks to irrigation, there are a lot of crops open to us: asparagus, seeds, vegetables, kiwis, etc.