A commitment to the highest standards of precision management is a hallmark of France’s organic farmers to their production practices.

And this principle extends well beyond weed control; it also includes the optimal use of land on which to grow crops.

A recent, Lemken-hosted visit to France by a group of Irish cereal and potato growers included a stop-off at the farm of the Rousselat family.

The father and son team, Jean Cristoph and Arnaud, grow a mix of wheat, sugar beet, sunflowers, soya and alfalfa close to the village on Neully in the Yonne region.

They are committed to organic production practices. However, they recognise the need to trial and introduce new crop management practices, in order to maintain the sustainability of their business.

French organic farmers

The land they are working features soils with very high clay contents. Limestone comes very close to the surface across all of the farm.

Soil pH values are very high, in the region of 8.4. As a consequence, soil available phosphate levels are very low.

Effective crop rotation is at the very heart of the Rousselat business model.

From a crop management perspective, effective mechanical weed control is critically important.

For the most part this is achieved using a precision hoeing system, manufactured by Steketee.

Making this work in a cereal setting requires crop row width to be extended to 25cm.

However, this degree of spacing allows for alfalafa and soya to be planted out between the rows of wheat during the months of April and May.

To make this happen, Jean Cristoph and Arnaud have specifically attached a seed drill to the Steketee hoe. This then delivers a combination of weed control and the establishment of the additional crop at the same time.

Water availability

Water availability for crops is a constant challenge for farmers in the Yonne region of eastern France.

In the case of Jean Cristoph and Arnaud Rousselat, they are currently trialling the use of active charcoal pellets as a way of retaining moisture throughout the growing season.

They are also allowed to use poultry litter pellets as a fertiliser source. These are sourced from Belgium and the Netherlands.

Another feature of the Rousselats’ approach to crop production is their use of microorganism-based spray solutions to stimulate both crop growth and enhance inherent levels of disease resistance.

This year has seen Jean Cristoph and Arnaud Rousselat achieving organic wheat yields of 3t/ha.

Their soya crops came in at 0.4t/ha. These figures are well down on projected levels, as a result of the extreme drought conditions that gripped their region for most of the 2022 growing season.