Transition of food systems


January 31st 2020

Conservation Agriculture and glyphosate – Strategies, lock-ins and diversity in the Belgian Walloon Region

Is it possible to practice Conservation Agriculture without glyphosate in Wallonia? What are the lock-ins to, and the conditions required for, the development of Conservation Agriculture without total herbicides ?


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Conservation Agriculture (CA) consists of an alternative agriculture system based on the protection of the soil. CA promotes a minimum tillage and soil disturbance, a permanent soil cover and a diversification of crops [1]. In Belgium only 270 ha are under CA practices [2]. The expansion of the system is limited by dependence to glyphosate [3, 4, 5], a total herbicide that may be banned in 2022 [6]. By conducting semi-directed interviews in Wallonia, this study identified two kinds of strategies to build a CA without glyphosate. The first one includes strategies which optimize glyphosate efficiency (optimal spraying conditions, spray solution composition, low volume technique…) while the second gathers strategies which replace glyphosate for the destruction of cover crops, volunteers from previous cropping and weeds (soil working tools, fodder breaks, pasture…). Farmers use some strategies rather than others based on different trade-offs, which are economic, managerial, institutional, environmental, social or technical. Understanding the interaction between these compromises and the choice of strategies employed allows to define the transition pathways of farmers practicing CA or those who may soon adopt it.


[1] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ‘Conservation Agriculture | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’. Accessed 6 December 2019.

[2] Kassam, A., T. Friedrich, et R. Derpsch. « Global spread of Conservation Agriculture ». International Journal of Environmental Studies 76, n°1 (6/08/2018): 29-51.

 [3] Wauters, Erwin, Charles Bielders, Jean Poesen, Gerard Govers, and Erik Mathijs. ‘Adoption of Soil Conservation Practices in Belgium: An Examination of the Theory of Planned Behaviour in the Agri-Environmental Domain’. Land Use Policy, Soil and Water Conservation Measures in Europe, 27, no. 1 (1 January 2010): 86–94.

[4] Vankeerberghen, Audrey, and Pierre M. Stassart. ‘The Transition to Conservation Agriculture: An Insularization Process towards Sustainability’. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 14, no. 4 (1 October 2016): 392–407.

[5] Morelle, Max, and Jérôme Braibant. ‘L’Agriculture de Conservation En Wallonie : Diversité et Verrouillages’, 2018.

[6] Phytoweb. ‘Glyphosate’, November 2019.