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Agroecological Crop Protection

Written by Administrateur Utilisateur Karine Payet-Lebourges Modified on the

  • Weaver ants in a citrus orchard in Vietnam © Philippe Cao Van (Cirad)
  • Growing vegetable in Southern Vietnam © Jean-Philippe Deguine (Cirad)

What is Agroecological Crop Protection (ACP)?

Crop Protection has relied for a long time on agrochemicals but is now at a defining moment. Although pesticides have been condemned for many years, the problems encountered with this type of Crop Protection are becoming more frequent and acute: inefficiency in many situations; resistance to pesticides; soil, water, and air pollution; hazards to human health; and loss in biodiversity. The challenge is now to move from this chemical-based approach to that of of pest prevention with more balanced and sustainable agroecosystems. This approach is based on agroecological and spatio-temporal management of plant and animal communities at extended scales (Ferron and Deguine, 2006).

ACP is the declension of Agroecology to Crop Protection and it is at the crossroad of Agroecology and Crop Protection (Deguine and Ratnadass, 2017). It aims at “replacing” chemicals, which have negative effects on the environment and on human health, by the services offered by functional biodiversity above and below soil surface (Sarthou et al., 2017). It is a system of Crop Protection based on the science of Agroecology. By focusing on preventive measures, it aims at establishing a bioecological balance between plant and animal communities within an agroecosystem in order to prevent or reduce the risk of infections or outbreaks of pests’ outbreaks. Among the conventional techniques used as part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), ACP focuses on the optimization of cropping practices and of plant population management methods so as to promote the maintenance or the creation of habitats for useful indigenous wildlife and/or counter nuisances affecting flora and fauna. Agroecological protection involves managing plant communities (crops and uncultivated plants in the agroecosystem as a whole) and animal populations such as pests and various beneficial arthropods. Trophic relationships, tritrophic interactions and trophobiosis processes are particularly important to be taken into account in this respect.

ACP is based on 2 axis: i) enhance biodiversity (vegetal/animal) and ii) soil health. It is therefore very consistent and complementary to Conservation Agriculture, devoted to agroecosystem soil management. ACP is another field of agroecosystem field study and management, devoted to prevention and management of pests. It is now well documented (Deguine et al., 2017). The phytosanitary strategy is structured according to the following elements: i) protection based on scientific principles of Agroecology (interactions, ecological functioning); ii) practices based on biodiversity, soil health and communities management; iii) priority to preventive measures. The three pillars of implementation of ACP are sanitation, habitat management and biological control. New scales of intervention are considered, both in terms of space and time in accordance with participatory, global and systemic approaches.

The implementation of the ACP principles to the field reality have shown good results in different parts of the planet and some success stories have been described, for example in vegetable crops (Deguine et al., 2015) or fruit crops (Deguine et al., 2018). Keys of agroecological transition are now available (Deguine et al., 2017) and can be adapted to different contexts, suahc as the Southeast Asian context.

Growing vegetables on Inlay Lake, Myanmar © Jean-Philippe Deguine (Cirad)

Agroecology and Agroecological Crop Protection in the Southeast Asian context

Agroecology, as a scientific discipline, a social movement and a set of agricultural practices, is promoted around the world, in Asia and particulary in Southeast Asia. In this geographic zone, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) organised a Regional Meeting on Agroecology for Asia and the Pacific in November 2015 in Bangkok in order: i) to highlight existing best practices in the region, as well as challenges and strategies to overcome them and ii) to create the conditions aiming at strengthening Agroecology at the country-level, while enhancing the opportunities for regional integration.

In this respect, the Cansea platform, gathering research institutes and universities from 6 Asian countries at the moment has to play a key role in Southeast Asia. Until now, the activities of the Cansea platform focused on research and training in Conservation Agriculture, particularly on degraded soils restoration and sustainable intensification and diversification of conventional cropping systems. Cansea enters a new phase and its future orientations aim at enlarging the scope of activities to the Agroecology practices (Conservation Agriculture being one among them), to develop activities in partnership and at moving from a network to a research and training platform on Agroecology for Southeast Asia. The development of scientific activities through a research platform will involve Cansea members already working on Conservation Agriculture and new scientific members working on complementary Agroecology approaches in partnership with extra researchers.

The global regional ACTAE project aims at accompanying the agroecological transition in Southeast Asia. Its purposes are to support networking of all categories of stakeholders, to facilitate synergies between different approaches and partners, to promote Agroecology practices to small scale farmers, to consumers and policy makers.

This orientation needs both to reinforce the activities related to Conservation Agriculture, to facilitate exchanges and synergies between partners in Southeast Asia to get a better visibility and open activities to new fields of Agroecology approaches. The ACP project aims at opening a poorly unexplored field of Agroecology, in the field of Crop Protection, which is entirely coherent with the approach developed in Conservation Agriculture.

Intensive agriculture, based on ‘green revolution’ practices such as monocultures, agro-chemical inputs and intensive tillage with high level of fuel consumption, has been implemented in many countries around the world to meet the rapidly-growing needs of global populations and markets. Yet, agricultural intensification also has devastating effects on the environment, affects farm profitability and impacts human health, of farmers and consumers. In the four ACTAE countries concerned by the ACP-ACTAE project,, the free availability and especially the non-guided use of chemically-synthesized pesticides now poses real social problems and is having devastating consequences for wildlife and local’s biodiversity by its excessive utilization by farmers. Such a situation can only be remediated by a paradigm shift, an increased attention to applied (on-farm) research and grower education, and a deliberate promotion of practices that safeguard nature and the environment. In Asia, the oldest example of ACP pertains to the conservation of weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) by farmers in ancient China and Vietnam, to control insect pests in citrus orchards. Unfortunately, this “heritage” became forgotten and underutilized with the easy availability and utilization of chemical pesticides promoted by the intensive agriculture.


Deguine J.-P., Atiama-Nurbel T., Aubertot J.-N., Augusseau X., Atiama M., Jacquot M., Reynaud B., 2015. Agroecological management of cucurbit-infesting fruit fly management. A review.Agronomy for Sustainable Development. DOI: 10.1007/s13593-015-0290-5.

Deguine J.-P., Gloanec C., Laurent P., Ratnadass A., Aubertot J-.N .(eds), 2017. Agroecological Crop Protection. Springer Science+Business Media B.V., Dordrecht, 280 p. ISBN 978-94-024-1184-3, DOI 10.1007/978-94-024-1185-0

Deguine J.-P., Jacquot M., Allibert A., Chiroleu F., Graindorge R., Laurent P., Albon B., Marquier M., Gloanec C., Lambert G., Vanhuffel L., Vincenot D., Aubertot J.-N., 2018. Agroecological Protection of Mango Orchards in Réunion. Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, 28, Ecology for Agriculture, ISBN: 978-3-319-90308-8, 249-308

Deguine J.-P., Ratnadass A., 2017. Agroecogical Crop Protection: At the Interface Between Agroecology, Crop Protection and Biodiversity Management. In: Deguine J.-P., Gloanec C., Laurent P., Ratnadass A., Aubertot J-.N .(eds), 2017. Agroecological Crop Protection. Springer Science+Business Media B.V., Dordrecht, 33-43. ISBN 978-94-024-1184-3, DOI 10.1007/978-94-024-1185-0

Ferron P., Deguine J.-P. 2005. Crop Protection, biological control, habitat management and integrated farming. Agronomy for sustainable development, 25, 17-24.

Sarthou J.-P., Jacquot M., Deguine J.P., 2017. Functional Soil and Aerial Biodiversity. In: Deguine J.-P., Gloanec C., Laurent P., Ratnadass A., Aubertot J-.N .(eds), 2017. Agroecological Crop Protection. Springer Science+Business Media B.V., Dordrecht, 182-187. ISBN 978-94-024-1184-3, DOI 10.1007/978-94-024-1185-0