“Nobody is asking the French farming industry what we think about glyphosate”

French cereal farmer Jean-Christophe explains how he balances organic and conventional farming methods on his land in the Loiret region

 

“My name is Jean-Christophe, I’m 35 years old, and I’m a cereal farmer in the Loiret region. I took over the farm 10 years ago and I now live here with my wife and three children.

When I first began working this land it only grew sugar beet and cereals. Since taking it over, I have diversified the crop rotation and now grow oilseeds, such as rapeseed and maize, as well as several types of cereals, including spring barley, winter barley and high-protein wheat.

25 hectares of the farm is now organic and used to produce field-grown vegetables for local customers and markets. I made part of my farm organic to meet consumers’ needs. Today, French people want to eat healthily and perhaps pay slightly more for a product that is grown differently.

“Farmers are environmental professionals. It’s their life and their soil, so obviously they will work hard to preserve the land.” Jean-Christophe, cereal farmer

Farming has been in my family for generations. My dad worked on a small 50-hectare farm, where he cultivated sugar beet and cereals. Ever since I was a small child, I have helped with the farm work. Using your common sense, living with the countryside, working in a vital industry, feeding people, and always doing your best and with hope – these are the values of farming.

Reconciling both types of agriculture is clearly feasible, and even quite successful. Personally, for example, I use organic weeding techniques on my conventionally grown crops, which means I can apply fewer pesticides. I always prefer to use alternative methods, but chemicals are tools that I will use on my conventional growing sections as a last resort to save a crop. We don’t have this option in organic farming, so we have to work differently, and this comes with more risks, of course. In some years, depending on the weather, diseases caused by parasites can develop on cereals. Using a chemical will be essential to maintain the hygienic quality of crops affected this way.

Jean-Christophe pulls weeds on his land; French Farmers

Ploughing is a weed control technique that turns over the soil, to a greater or lesser depth, and is something that has positive and negative aspects. In my opinion, ploughing on my farm can be useful, maybe once every three or four years. Between these periods, I can use glyphosate, which means I don’t have to plough. I try to strike a balance between using herbicides and mechanical work, which leads to soil erosion.

I try to find the optimal level between ploughing and using chemicals. Glyphosate allows me to re-sow directly after a crop without ploughing, so it can avoid a lot of mechanical work, increased fuel consumption and many hours of work.

I only made the decision to use glyphosate on my conventional rotation after full consideration. I use glyphosate, which is a total herbicide, on crops that are not intended for harvest or on the land between planting, which allows me to reduce the use of selective herbicides on the following crop.

 

I do not use glyphosate systemically on my farm. It’s simply a tool to be used between crops or, if the weather favours regrowth, glyphosate will be used to clear the fields. Another example is that after I took over the farm, a motorway was built across my land. Throughout the works, there was no maintenance along the road edge, so for several years field bindweed invaded the land around my farm.

Bindweed found in the crops is directly harmful to our production and it multiplies, since it is a perennial weed. If you plough you simply cut the roots of the bindweed and spread it a little farther, so it moves quickly across our fields. To tackle this, we use glyphosate to destroy bindweed in the summer when there are no more crops. Currently, glyphosate is one of only a handful of affordable products available for farmers to combat bindweed.

Nobody is asking the farming industry what it thinks about using glyphosate. Today, glyphosate is a tool that isn’t used systematically; it is a solution for the farmer in certain situations. I think that a farmer can use glyphosate in this way occasionally and it won’t necessarily be harmful to the sustainability of their farm.

Farmers are the primary people concerned when it comes to using or not using herbicides, and glyphosate in particular. Glyphosate is a tool that must be available for farmers. Farmers are environmental professionals. It’s their life and their soil, so obviously they will work hard to preserve the land.

Farmers are people who think responsibly and will always grow their crops intelligently. This is why the decision on whether to use glyphosate or not must be taken by those who understand and care for the land.”