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INRAE
24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

Welcome in Caen, Normandy

In 2022, INRAE and Caen University will host the 29th EGF General Meeting in Caen, France. France previously hosted the EGF General Meeting in Lusignan in 2002. Caen is a medium sized city in the heart of Normandy. Normandy is famous for its permanent grassland, and the high quality cheese, butter and creams produced by the Normande cows, bovine meat and horses produced from that grassland. Some of the grassland area is part of a number of nature preservation projects. EGF 2022 will offer delegates the first hand opportunity to see and experience these different aspects of local agriculture.

Central theme of the EGF general meeting 2022

The central theme of the congress is the contributions of grasslands and the products derived from them to the development of circular, healthy and sustainable food systems and the conditions for expressing their contributions. Questioning the herbivore production systems and their products must necessarily question the place that we give to grassland as a feed resource. Grazing can also contribute to animal welfare and to the positive image of herbivores farming systems. In the other side, grasslands can be seen as a reservoir and a means of preserving biodiversity, structuring landscapes, regulating biogeochemical cycles, helping to reduce the use of pesticides, contributing to the fight against global warming through their ability to store C and their albedo, contributing to the proper biological functioning of soils and limiting soil erosion. Which acreage and types of grassland and grassland management are required to take advantages and maximise these services? The options will probably vary according to local conditions. Grasslands are therefore at the heart of many issues expressed in the Green Deal, Farm to Fork strategy and biodiversity strategy for European food systems. The question of circularity refers to the link to local/regional context or to wider scales (C storage, food security) and encompass the great diversity of territories and their grasslands.

As the expectations regarding the performance of tomorrow's food systems are multiple and because the importance of each performance varies according to the stakeholder’s visions and the local climatic and agronomic context, achieving the objectives requires the search for new compromises between the various services. The analysis of the relationship between ecosystem services (trade-offs and synergies), their drivers encompassing economic, social, biological and biotic regulatory processes and the search of compromises will be the keystone of the congress. Beyond the provision of feed for herbivores, the diversification of the use of grasslands, in particular for producing energy, bio sourced material and feed for monogastric or for the production of and the consequences on the provision of other services recognized by the societies will be considered.

An original feature of the congress will be to have main reports produced by a group of authors from different disciplines and different regions of Europe in order to put forward a more global vision, to highlight the points of divergence and convergence and to encourage a maximum cross-fertilisation of views. For this, we will ask the prospective rapporteurs to contact colleagues to provide additional insight by providing them with one or two names of researchers who can provide a complementary perspective but specifying that they are confident about the choice of calling on other colleagues.

Themes for plenary sessions

Session 1: Putting grasslands into perspective

The objective of this session is to highlight the futures of grasslands in Europe in a context where animal production faces huge sustainability challenges and more globally the society is calling for food systems to change and this societal demand is relayed by ambitious political agenda (Green Deal, Farm to Fork Strategy, Biodiversity strategy). The ambition concerns food sovereignty, climate change, biodiversity losses, protection of ecosystems, animal welfare, farmer income and rural vitality. This new context may offer new assets for grassland and grassland based systems in their huge diversity but at the same time, many livestock farmers see grassland based systems as low producing, complex and old-fashioned systems.

1.1. Evolution of the issues for grasslands
1.2. What place for grasslands and ruminants through scenario studies?
1.3. Discussion panel: exchange on the different visions.

Session 2: Bundles of services provided by grasslands

The objective of the session is to present the services provided by grasslands, the synergies and trade-off between services and the search of compromises between services considering the diversity of grasslands types, the diversity of management and the value of different ecosystem services of grasslands for different stakeholders. The session will consider productions of different material goods from grassland as animal products, energy, and bio sourced products and consequences on the provision of environmental services. The session will also address the value of different ecosystem services of grasslands for different stakeholders, which can affect the choice of compromise to be found between services.

2.1. The bundles of services provided by grassland for sustainable food systems in Europe.
2.2. The place and roles of grassland in sustainable food systems in other world regions
2.3. New valorisations of grassland biomass and consequences on the production of services

Session 3: Using biodiversity to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience of grassland based systems

The objective of this session is to study the expected benefits of biodiversity and system diversity on resilience and reduced vulnerability in a context where grassland-based systems are presented as an appropriate response to new societal demands, whereas from many farmers' perspective, they are seen as vulnerable systems, particularly in the face of climate change and health hazards. The variability of production during the year and between years is also considered as a major issue. The invited papers will consider the role of floristic diversity (mainly at plot scale) and the role of other grazing elements, including animal diversity.

3.1. Multi species based grassland as a source of resilience and reduction of systems vulnerability
3.2. Diversity of grassland, grassland management and grazing herd as a source of resilience and reduction of systems vulnerability

Session 4: Looking for synergy between animal, grassland and crops

The session will focus on issues that are less often discussed in EGF congresses although they have a very important role for the sustainability of food systems. The intensification and specialization of farming systems has led to a geographical separation of livestock and cropping areas with the development of intensive livestock farming with confined animals that are now often questioned by society, especially for reasons of animal welfare, and cropping areas with degraded soils and high pesticide use within highly simplified rotations. Consumers perceive pasture-based systems as more natural and better for animal welfare and health than confinement but grazing can also put animals in greater exposure to wildlife, parasites, predation, and heat stress. The designing of innovative mixed farming systems with the introduction of diverse ley pastures into cropping systems can contribute to overcome these limitations but has received little attention in Europe and require new organizations between stakeholders.

4.1. Grassland at the service of livestock welfare and health
4.2. Integration of ley pasture and crop system for a more sustainable agricultural production

Session 5: Initiatives for the transfer and co-construction of innovations on and for grassland

European projects increasingly associate research, development and stakeholders to co-innovate. The objective of the session will be to take a tour of Europe’s grassland-focus initiatives aimed at promoting knowledge transfer between research and end-users, co-development of innovation in the domain of grassland and grassland management for sustainable food systems and the identification of knowledge gaps. After an introductive invited paper on the reflections carried out on the strategy of implementation of networking projects, the session will provide some illustrations of the diversity of themes, approaches, means of actions and achievements.

5.1. A state of play of the initiatives in Europe
5.2. A brief testimony contribution of a current European project
5.3. Spot presentations
5.4. Debate with the audience

A brief tour of agriculture in Normandy

Agriculture in Normandy is diverse. Grassland is of major importance in the region. Permanent and temporary grassland cover 40 and 11% of the agricultural area, respectively. Maize silage represents 15% and cereals 20% of the agricultural areas in the region, cereals being mainly produced in the highly intensified Plaine de Caen. Some grasslands are intensively managed, while others are extensively managed and engaged in nature preservation projects. Livestock agriculture is diverse and includes specialised dairy farming, specialized cattle farming, mixed farming systems, horse farming and also sheep farming. Normandy is the third most important French region for dairy production with 12% of the dairy herd and is renowned for its famous products such as Normande raw milk cheeses, creams and butters. Normandy is also the most famous French region for horse production, notably horses for sporting events and a well know agricultural region for cider production and alcohol (the famous Calvados). Overall the Normande agriculture is a good illustration of the diversity of challenges and expectations for the future of grassland in circular and sustainable food systems.