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Agroecological engineering for biocontrol of soil pests – examples from the French Caribbean

Marie Chave: INRA

<div>Current crop protection based on elite varieties and intensive use of pesticides suffers from major limitations: emergence of pathogen resistance, alteration of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, risk to human health and dependence of farmers on external inputs. By promoting natural regulations, agroecological engineering is an alternative approach. It no longer offers one-stop solutions but calls for a set of biodiversity-based solutions that leave room for farmer initiatives. To illustrate this type of approach, the example arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses are of growing interest in tropical areas facing strong challenging diseases. A participatory innovative design method involved farmers, researchers and technical advisers to identify potential solutions and combinations on how to enhance and benefit from mycorrhiza for crop health. Our main findings are that i) farmers propose a diversity of solutions related to the three steps of mycorrhizal fungi-plants interactions: fungal introduction in the field, establishment of symbioses and mycorrhizal network development, ii) propositions by farmers aimed at enhancing indigenous mycorrhizal networks rather than introducing exogenous propagules, iii) on farm innovative devices tested by farmers are efficient. Smallholder farmers are thus drivers in designing agroecological technologies. We will present how these findings are deployed as methods for teaching in agricultural school and for training farmers.</div>