Performance of non-conventional agricultural systems

Agriculture practices in Wallonia heavily rely on external inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. This results in an intensive production system that creates environmental and societal pressures, such as large energy consumption; soil degradation; inefficient water regulation; leaching of chemicals with known and unknown risks for the environment and public health, etc. In addition, present intensive production systems, based on wide fields without hedges or trees, result in low levels of biodiversity and monotonous landscapes.

These concerns, which are raised in the public debate, need to be integrated in the Walloon agro-ecosystem. In this context, it is necessary to test the relevance of alternative, innovative agricultural techniques covering agronomic, economic, social and environmental aspects.

In order to meet the challenges of a more environment-friendly agriculture and increase the overall services provided by the agro-ecosystems to our society, we propose to adopt a proactive approach. This approach is based on the idea of optimizing and balancing ecosystem services (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). One can define four types of services provided by ecosystems: production, support, regulation and cultural services. This framework will be used as a guideline to assess the performance of non-conventional agricultural systems under investigation in AGRICULTUREislife. In a first round, five PhD projects will be launched which will provide quantitative information to evaluate one or more of the four ecosystem services.

Project 1A

WildfSéverin Hattlower strips for a conservation biological control: Influence of     the functional diversity and the mowing regime

PhD student: Séverin HATT (
Coordinator: Frédéric FRANCIS


Séverin analyzes the influence of both (i) functional diversity of wildflower strips sown on field margins and (ii) the strip mowing management on pest and beneficial insects in a context of conservation biological control. In one field experiment, four modalities of functional diversity will be tested. In another field zone, we  assess the effect of three mowing regimes. A third zone we introduced only one specific flower species, which will allow us to better understand the processes involved. Based on the results of the field experiments, we build food webs and assess the efficacy of wildflower strips for pest control. Read more…

Project 1B

Naina  AndriamandrosoInfluence of pasture type on animal behaviour and soil fertility

PhD student: A.L. Herinaina ANDRIAMANDROSO (
Coordinator: Jérôme BINDELLE



Naina evaluates parts of the support, regulating and production services related to the use of animals in the agricultural system. The project investigate the animal grazing behaviour on different types of pasture and assess the interactions between animal, vegetation growth (regulating service), fodder quality (production service) and soil nutrient state (support service). Read more…

Project 1C

RoelInfluence of functional diversity of wildflower strips in conventional crop production on two ecosystem services: biodiversity support and pollination

PhD student: Roel UYTTENBROECK (
Coordinator: Arnaud MONTY


Roel assesses the relationship between functional diversity of perennial wildflower strips and biodiversity support, pollination services, weed populations dynamics and crop yields. As such, this project focuses on the compromises to be made between regulating services and production services. Read more…

Project 1D

SoInfluence of types of crop production on the natural resources soil and water

PhD student: Sophie BARBIEUX (
Coordinator: Gilles COLINET



Sophie focuses on the effect of the agricultural system (tillage, residue use, crop choice and animal use) on the soil nutrient state and, more specifically, the availability of soil phosphorus. Therefore, it links the support services of the soil system to the production services of different agricultural practices. This project is closely linked to research looking at soil moisture state and transport characteristics of the soil. Read more…

Project 1E

Sidonie ArtruAssessment of the implementation of agroforestry systems in Belgium

PhD student: Sidonie ARTRU (
Coordinator: Ludivine LASSOIS



Sidonie establishes the state of the art of agroforestry in the ecological and agricultural context of the Middle Europe and focuses on the characterization of a panel of tree species in terms of life traits in relation with ecosystemic services and agroforestry requirements and of potential bioproducts. Secondly, a selection and improvement program will be carried out for some tree species in order to increase their content of specific organic compounds and biobased products. Read more…

Project 1F

Photo DBWhen biodiversity conservation and farming activities are led to meet in grasslands: How coordinate and for what results?

PhD student: David Bredart (
Coordinator: Marc Dufrêne and Pierre M. Stassart

David characterizes coordination forms between biodiversity conservation and farming activities in grasslands. It aims at understanding how the implementation of agri-environmental schemes influences the design of these two activities and the sharing of rural land. Using semi-structured surveys, the PhD will focus on the study of various effective projects of conservation involving farmers. The analytical methods will be positioned in the framework of the reflexive governance theory. Read more…

Project 1G

Emilie PecherUnderstanding the links between biodiversity, ecological functionality and ecosystem services in agroecosystems at different landscape scales

PhD student: Emilie Pécheur (
Coordinator: Grégory Mahy and Marc Dufrêne


Emilie investigates the links existing between species diversity, functional trait diversity and the provision of pollination and pest control services in agroecosystems. This project will also explore how landscape elements, both relictual and newly implemented, can provide efficient and sustainable ecosystem services. The approach relies on analysis on Syrphidae and Carabidae community structure and on an evaluation on service provisionning. Read more…

Project 1H

FannyContribution of diversified farming systems to the delivery of ecosystem services

PhD student: Fanny Boeraeve (
Coordinator: Marc Dufrêne ( and Nicolas Dendoncker (



To investigate the contribution of diversified farming systems to the delivery of ecosystem services (ES), the study will rely on the methodology of “integrated ES assessment” which includes a biophysical and social ES valuation. Measurements will be carried out in diversified farming systems and in adjacent conventional systems in the western part of the Hainaut province in Belgium. The present research represents a second step to the initiative of AgricultureIsLife, in the sense that it broadens the scope of ES studied, and the scale to the farm level, relying on the knowledge and methodologies previously generated at the field scale by ongoing projects of the platform. Read more…