Economic and sociologic assessment

Lead organisation: Brittany Regional Chamber of Agriculture (CRAB)

Previous researchs have shown that transformation i.e. evolution of agricultural systems, and especially of tillage practices, is embedded into evolution of farmer's perceptions of their activity and their professional insertion (Coughenour 2003 ; Goulet 2008). Moreover, a study conducted at regional scale showed that 33% of cultivated area in Brittany is seeded under reduced tillage while they represented only 21% in 2011. This highlights clearly the interest by farmers in these systems (Agreste, 2006). Furthermore, many survey studies have been realised on farm network in order to describe the different production systems, their agricultural practices and the constraints for the farmers (CA de Bretagne, 2005, 2006, 2008).

WP5 aims to assess the innovation processes farmers undertake when they modify their agricultural systems. A socio-agronomic approach will be applied, using survey of farm networks described in A.II.3. The innovation process will be assessed through 4†intimately linked components: farmer practice changes, their networks of relationships and information, their training dynamics, and input from farmer regarding their working conditions, their perceptions of how their work relates to society and their identity as farmers (their place in society). Some previous studies have been carried on to build a farm network in order to analyse the relationships between the relevant actors (Chambers of Agriculture of Brittany, BASE Network, INRA, University Rennes 1, etc..) (Cipriano, 2007†; Goulet, 2008).
To understand the changes of the farmer's evolution accompanying these changes a multifaceted study is required combining i) an agronomic approach that describes and evaluates the relevant technical choices, ii) a social science approach to take into account the human dimension linked to these changes. Thus, it is a truly integrated approach that combines both the agronomic and the social.
Finally, to complement this socio-agronomic approach, we will analyse the economic performance of the studied farms.

Description of work
The study will be done by surveying farmer networks. These farmer networks should be representative of regional or national scale variability.
In Brittany, the farmer network already exists and is based on 11 pairs farms. For the SUSTAIN project, this network will be complemented with new farm couples in order to cover the pedologic and climatic variability observed at the regional scale as well as the heterogeneity of agricultural systems.
The survey will be based on a commonly applied methodology called "Survey of Cultural Practices", which will be improved according to ADEME request report (2007).
This survey is composed of three parts:

  • Agronomic: farm production, agricultural practices, inputs (e.g. quantity of fertilization, pesticides...), machines used, yields.
  • Social: farmer profile, labour, the instigator leading to practice changes (e.g. time, economy, environment,...), social relations of the farmer. Perception by farmers on their practices and the impact on soil ecosystem services. Identification of the farmers' requests in relation to researcher and policy makers.
  • Economic: production (sale price and subsidies), production cost, mechanisation charges and work duration. These parameters allow for the measurement of an indicator of returns which is the average profit margin.