It is on the calender of every French grower now: the Good Practices Days. At the end of September, this event was organised by Excellence Végétale and MPS-France, aiming at all growers involved in an environmental certification such as MPS-ABC or Plante Bleue. The main theme this time was ‘water’, approached from different angles but always from the view of good production practices.

Irrigation management in nurseries: visit to the SCEA of Champ Morin
The water problem is very vast and different depending on the basins, companies and types of production. It is with the aim of exploring different situations that we made a nursery visit to Champ Morin on Wednesday 27 September 2023.
Christophe Dinan, SCEA of Champ Morin, grower of cereal crops nursery (7 ha) in Blou, presented the evolution of his company in terms of irrigation management, in a territory where water quotas have been established since many years. To recover as much water as possible, the company set up ditches made with a concrete tarpaulin, around the different growing fields. Rainwater is also collected on the company’s two buildings. All areas around the beds are grassed, also facilitating the penetration of rainwater into the ground.
To control irrigation, Dinan has also been using capacitive probes for about ten years. At the start of the season, they are used to accurately assess the needs of the plants to facilitate irrigation programming. During the season, they are very useful for remotely checking that the irrigation is working properly and modifying the instructions if necessary.

A morning full of varied presentations
Thursday morning was devoted to presentations from various experts on the issue of water in production:

  • Maud Dubois from the ‘Bureau Horticole Régional’ (BHR) reported on a survey carried out at the end of summer 2022, which well summarises the extent of the situations and problems depending on the geographical basins, the solutions already put in place in companies, and the crops.
    She also described the functioning of collective water management on some territories. This is something that might develop in more and more places in the future to have a fair distribution of water between the different growers/farmers of a given territory.
  • Alain Ferre from Astredhor presented results of experiments with shadowing and mulching. Different shade cloths have been tested (white, black, green, and blue) during heat waves, on outdoor potted plants, to prevent them from drying, and burning. It appears that the blue shade cloth seemed the more interesting; new experiments will be held next summer.
    The humidity level of water has been controlled in open field nurseries and vineyards, in order to compare fields with bare ground, grass, and mulching. Mulching proved to be the best way to keep a good humidity level on the soil.
  • Brigitte Pelletier from CDDM (comité départemental de développement maraîcher) near Nantes presented the tests they are carrying out with pond covers. Not only are they testing different covers and their impact on the water evaporation in the ponds, but also the impact on water quality, biodiversity, etc.

This meeting was also an opportunity to present the evolution of the certifications. For MPS-ABC, the new data visualisation was presented, especially the 5 year overviews that each company can now check from its portal. The global average usages of French MPS-ABC companies were also analysed with the participants. An important reduction of CPAs had been particularly noticed.

During the afternoon, the participants could visit the hosting company, Maison Barrault. The company celebrated its 70th birthday last year. It kept evolving all through the years, growing step by step. Today, they grow 12 million perennials, aromatics, bedding and pot plants on 32 hectares.
The company has been MPS-ABC certified since the mid-2000s, with an MPS-A certification. Some edible crops are also organic. MPS-ABC was the first certification, and remains the central one for the company. The record-keeping tool allows them to gather all information needed for the other certifications, and MPS-ABC helped them put in place in the company the right organisation to fulfill all requirements from all certifications. Water has always been an important matter in the company. As much water as possible is collected from the growing plots and several ponds have been constructed.

All in all, it were very interesting and valuable days and we are looking forward to next year!