When digital technology invents sustainable agriculture
Faced with world population growth, farmers have for several decades sought ways to improve their yield whilst also protecting the environment. The modelling of microbial ecosystems by the MODEMIC project team in Montpellier is helping to tackle this dual challenge.
It is hard for the city-dweller walking around the French International Agricultural Show this week to see a link between microbial organisms and a field of wheat. "And yet these micro-organisms play an essential role in breaking down organic matter from dead plants and making it assimilable by plants ", Alain Rapaport, head of MODEMIC, the joint INRA-Inria project team, reminds us. "Within my team, we are trying to understand the interactions between the different microbial species with the help of digital models, in order to improve their effectiveness but also to reduce greenhouse gases produced during these biochemical transformations. A contrario, we can also choose to combine these organisms in order to produce more reusable biogases, like methane. This requires a global approach to the problem. "
Thanks to this modelling work, the MODEMIC project team - together with the INRA researchers - is capable of identifying the most promising ecosystems, thereby limiting recourse to costly and time-consuming experiments. Another advantage of these bacteria is that they can also be used to decontaminate hydric networks such as, for example, drainage water containing agricultural nitrates (fertilizers, pesticides...). This issue is also of interest to the Biocore project team, which is working on the potential of bacteria for greenhouse crops in particular.
At the end of the day, it's just a microscopic step from mathematics to agriculture!