Low input cropping systems

Scale level :
Definition :

Low Input Cropping Systems (LICS) tend to optimise on-farm resources and minimize purchased off-farm resources such as fertilizers, pesticides, mineral fertilizers and fuel, which are expensive and harmful for the environment. Thus, soil and water pollution, as well as pesticide residues in food are reduced. Production costs tend also to be lower: these systems increase both short and long-term farm profitability.

LICS are adapted to the territory characteristics in which they are located. They are considered on a multi annual scale, according to the pedoclimatic characteristics of the plot or set of plots considered. They tend towards a more ‘closed’ production cycle, putting the emphasis on biological regulations through positive interactions between the various components of the system, such as tillage, fertilization or crop rotation.

These systems are based on a logical and orderly combination of agronomic levers based on the ESR (Efficiency, Substitution, Redesign) grid, used to describe levels of transition to agroecology. In this sense, low-input cropping systems can be viewed in terms of:

  • Inputefficiency: treatment at the right time (taking into accounthumidity and wind conditions) and at the optimum dose, possible use of precision agriculture tools;
  • Substitution: use of rustic varieties multi-resistant to diseases or tolerant to water deficit, biological or physical pest control, such asbiocontrol by trichograms to control the European corn borer;
  • Redesignproduction systems: long and diversified rotations, soil conservation agriculture, reduction of “operational” working time and construction of new treatment habits with the redefinition of “tolerance levels” to damage.

LICS look for the highest productivity efficiency, providing optimal farm income and with the lowest off-farm inputs, minimizing environmental prejudices.  These systems are therefore innovative and robust. Adapted to local conditions they are in fact more resilient to disturbances, especially those linked to the climate. Thus, LICS are part of the agroecological transition process, by offering a sustainable alternative to intensive agriculture using synthetic inputs.

Published on 18 April 2019
Bibliographic references :

Katarzyna Biala, Jean-Michel Terres, Philippe Pointereau, Maria Luisa Paracchini. Low Input Farming Systems: an Opportunity to Develop Sustainable Agriculture. Proceedings of the JRC Summer University Ranco, 2-5 July 2007. 7p.

Giuliano, S., Ryan, M., Véricel, G., Rametti, G., Perdrieux, F., Justes, E., Alletto, L., 2016. Low-input cropping systems to reduce input dependency and environmental impacts in maize production : A multi-criteria assessment. European Journal of Agronomy. 76, pp160–175. DOI: 10.1016/j.eja.2015.12.016

Hill, Stuart B., Rod J. MacRae. 1996. Conceptual Framework for the Transition from Conventional to Sustainable Agriculture . Journal  of Sustainable Agriculture. Vol. 7, n°1, p. 81 87.

Solagro, 2007. Low Input Farming Systems : An Umbrella Concept for Sustainable Agriculture in Europe. 4p.

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