[EXP] Restoring soils through co-cultivation of trees and cereals
Local farming pioneer turns teacher
Rural topic(s): Agroecology and agroforestry
Type: Success story
Date of writing: August 23, 2012
Author(s) of this page: Patrick Chalmers
Jack De Lozzo is an organic farmer who works 80 hectares of land on rolling hills in the Gers department of Southwest France. De Lozzo says converting to organic farming and restoring soil fertility has involved serial experimentation over years. It included replanting native-species hedges and, more recently, lines of mixed-species trees across parcels of arable land.
Hot summers, cold winters and marine-influenced rainfall levels, combined with the area’s heavy clay soils, make the task of raising beef cattle and mixed cropping using organic methods a major challenge. He explains how the area faces chronic problems of soil compaction, erosion, declining fertility and loss of organic matter. Farmers’ usual response is to deploy expensive, energy- and chemical-intensive techniques, creating a variety of environmental blights in return. Organic farmers have no such remedies.
De Lozzo’s approach involves minimal working of the soil’s top layers and keeping a continual surface cover of organic matter through the year. That contrasts with conventional deep ploughing and long periods of leaving the earth bare fields. Jack’s father began the work of soil remediation on the farm more than a decade ago. That helped loosen ground turned hard by years of ploughing with high horsepower tractors and the sowing of summer and winter crops that needed significant chemical inputs.
The younger De Lozzo says converting to organic farming and restoring soil fertility has involved serial experimentation over years. It included replanting native-species hedges and, more recently, lines of mixed-species trees across parcels of arable land. His pioneering work includes designing a sit-upon, tractor attachment that allows rapid planting of the 50-trees per hectare he advocates. His work has drawn great interest locally, with government agronomists, fellow farmers, students and school children among those he has welcomed to the farm for demonstrations of his techniques and their results.
A classic example of the farmer as cross-disciplinary innovator, this one largely self-taught. While agro-forestry and the no-till techniques Jack has introduced are increasingly well known in some parts of the world, they are much less familiar in France and his native Gers. That De Lozzo is willing to share his findings is of huge value to more conservative-minded contemporaries.
Source of the information: author visit on August 20, 2012 that included extended conversation, questioning and video interviews in the context of the Sustainable Mystery Tour 2012.
Jack De Lozzo, is an individual farmer who is also associated with Arbre & Paysage 32, an association under the French law 1901. (arbre-et-paysage32.com)
Scale of intervention : Local
Keywords: agroforestry, conservation and management of natural resources, organic farming, Sustainable Mystery Tour 2012, innovation, improving soil quality, diversification of economic activities, hedges, no-till, mixed crops