Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 26, Number 3, July-September 2006
Page(s) 215 - 225
Published online 21 October 2006
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 26 (2006) 215-225
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2006018

Survey-based analysis of irrigation and N fertilisation practices in apple orchards

Thomas Nesmea, Stéphane Bellonb, Françoise Lescourreta and Robert Habiba

a  INRA, Unité Plantes et Systèmes de culture Horticoles (PSH), Domaine St-Paul, Site Agroparc, 84914 Avignon Cedex 9, France
b  INRA, Unité d'Écodéveloppement, Domaine St Paul, Site Agroparc, 84914 Avignon Cedex 9, France

(Accepted 25 July 2006; published online 21 October 2006)

Abstract - Farmers are increasingly required to justify their practices and to change their technical management approach due to the development of integrated production, new regulations and private standards. The feasibility of these changes can be assessed by analysing the practices of farmers. Here, we analysed the practices of farmers in apple orchards from an agronomic viewpoint, focusing on irrigation and N fertilisation. Our study is based on interviewing farmers about their practices and factors that influence their decisions. Interviews were supported by model-generated irrigation and fertilisation schedules related to the considered plots. Fertilisation data recorded over a two-year period were compared to data from interviews. Our results show that (1) irrigation practices were highly dependent on pest control practices; (2) chemical spraying against the codling moth strongly influenced irrigation frequency; (3) irrigation practices were dependent on irrigation devices; and (4) fertilisation practices were highly dependent on the conceptions that farmers had about the role of N fertilisers. These conceptions were associated with timing, fertiliser formula and modulation rules. Based on data recorded by farmers over a two-year period, fertilisation practices were highly variable. Likewise, these data also differed from data collected during interviews. Overall, our findings underline the importance of considering interactions between cultural practices and farmers conceptions in order to understand farmers practices. It also stressed the need to consider data recorded by the farmers themselves only as a partial source of information and to design better interviewing procedures with farmers.

Key words: apple orchard / farmers' practices / farmers' conceptions / interviews / data recorded by farmers

Corresponding author: Thomas Nesme

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2006