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24, chemin de Borde Rouge -Auzeville - CS52627 31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex - France

Last update: May 2021

Menu Logo Principal MicMac-Design Partners

MicMac Design Project

MicMac-Design Project

Work-package 7

Conception of a curriculum in Agroecology and Integrated Crop Production (ICP) in the agronomic schools of Toulouse based on the approach and results of the ‘MICMAC design’ project

Background and objective:

Agroecology, a combination of agronomy and ecology, is the study of the interactions that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms (Krebs, 2001) in agricultural production. Altieri (1995, 1999) or Gliessman (2007) present ecology for agroecology as purely descriptive, but a more powerful approach is to consider a functional and evolutionary framework.

Ecology has always contributed directly or indirectly to agronomy, which manipulates the distribution and abundance of plants and animals of economic importance or modifies genomes with a view to food or raw material production. Introducing more biological diversity in agriculture will strengthen the link between agronomy and ecology. The presence of greater biological diversity is in itself innovative, since the trend has been to simplify agronomic systems in order to facilitate management and maximise economic returns. However, there is a consensus among scientists that the quality and amount of ecological services is positively correlated with biological diversity in natural ecosystems (Hooper et al., 2005).

Understanding of the role of planned biodiversity (sensu Vandermeer et al., 2002) in agrosystems is an important subject for future research, in which participants of this project are already engaged.

Most of the curricula in agricultural schools are built on a disciplinary and reductionist basis with specialization in only one component of the whole system (its economy, a group of crops, soils, entomology, etc.). For agroecological innovations to be pursued and adopted, it is important to develop an educational program that gives students and young qualified professionals an integrated understanding of agroecosystems.

The integrated approach of the ‘MICMAC design’ project could be an important element of this curriculum.

Three main topics, that are interdependent, must be at the centre of this educational workpackage:

- Contribution of below- and above-ground biological diversity to nutrient cycling;

- Management of planned diversity: assembling complex plant associations in order to improve primary productivity;

- Transposition of theory on food web dynamics to field situations: harnessing biological diversity for the protection of plants.

The approach to teaching will also be considered.

Classical top down teaching - the so-called “Research, Development, Diffusion and Adoption approach”, (Robottom, 1987) - is rarely efficient.

A better approach is to involve the students more directly. This should improve teaching quality and make students aware of the advantages of knowledge co-construction, which will be of use in their careers (Greenall Gough & Robottom, 1993; Girault et al., 2008; see Roux & Blum, 1998 for an agricultural example).

Workplan and methods:

Three main points will constitute this WP:

1. Identification of initiatives of interest

The present MICMAC project will be one major initiative of interest.

Other projects will also be studied. For example, the Land Institute (USA) has a long practice of research on innovative cropping systems; the SAFE project (European PCRD) explored cropping systems associating trees and cereals.

Visits with scientists involved in such projects will be arranged. This also will help in organizing the next step.

2. Workshops and seminars to draft a curriculum in Agroecology and ICP

After the first stage described above, workshops and seminars will be organised.

Invited speakers will be asked to give their views on particular topics proposed by the participants of this work package. A seminar will follow each workshop to capitalize on the information and start constructing the curriculum. Experts in educational sciences will be invited to join the working sessions.

3. Promoting experience-based learning via field experiments and farm surveys

It is important that students be involved in the field experiments and in visits to farmers. Both of the experimental sites of this project allow this type of teaching activity.

In fact, one plot of the ‘Lamothe’ field would be dedicated to activities with students.


The main partners of this work-package are ENFA, INRA AGIR and EI Purpan

WP7 coordinator:

Jean-Louis Hemptinne(ENFA)
Jean-Louis Hemptinne