Objective: optimize the integration of the agricultural systems into their environment and territories


Agro-ecosystems are subject to a number of constraints: climate change, declining biodiversity, agro-ecological transition (planned limitation of inputs, diversification of species), the need for regular, high-quality and more local supplies, changing consumer eating habits, changing public perceptions of agriculture, and more.

In this changing context, production systems need to be adapted to meet a triple challenge: economic, societal and environmental. The projects developed within the International Research Center for Sustainable Agroecosystems share a common objective: to optimize the integration of agricultural systems into their respective environments and territories. This involves improving their resilience and sustainability, taking into account their performance in terms of production and environmental protection, and meeting society's expectations.

This project is built around three priority issues and two emblematic productions of the site: cereals and grazing livestock. 

  • Designing agrosystems adapted to future contexts and rooted in their territory and environment
  • Implement the agro-ecological transition, by limiting the impact of agrosystems on their environment, and promoting ecosystem services.
  • Develop the circular economy, by making the most of the synergies that exist between different types of production in the region.

To meet these challenges as effectively as possible, the International Research Centre - IRC-SAE project on sustainable agro-ecosystems has been structured around 4 complementary research axes.


The IRC-SAE (formerly CIR 1) is structured into 4 integrative and interdisciplinary research axes: 

Axis 1: Adaptive Capacities of Animals and Plants (CAAP) 

Coordinators: Muriel Bonnet (INRAE, UMR Herbivore) & Vincent Allard (INRAE, UMR GDEC)

Executive board: Christophe Tatout (UCA, UMR GRED), Sabine Leroy (INRAE, UMR MEDIS), José Pires (INRAE, UMR Herbivore), Jacques Le Gouis (INRAE, UMR GDEC), Bruno Moulia (INRAE, UMR PIAF).

Context: Livestock and crop production are faced with highly variable environmental conditions and a shift in practices towards low-input systems or systems that make the most of available resources in the lowland and semi-mountainous areas characteristic of the Auvergne Rhône Alpes region.

Objective: Identify the determinism of tolerance to constraints imposed by climate change, or identify/qualify this tolerance. The experimental unit targeted by axis 1 is the individual: the plant (in its canopy) or the animal (in its environment) in their broadest sense, i.e. including interactions with the microbiome.
The knowledge generated will be aimed at understanding the (eco)physiological and molecular mechanisms of tolerance. Tolerance will be seen as a genetic, morphological, physiological or behavioral characteristic that confers a survival or reproductive advantage on individuals displaying this trait, in a given environment.
These studies should provide knowledge and tools to facilitate the phenotyping and selection of plants and animals best adapted to the constraints induced by biotic/abiotic stresses induced by climate change.

AAP : AAP in progress


Axis 2: Systems approach to (re)designing agrosystems

Coordinators: Sébastien Fontaine (UREP), Claire Mosnier (INRAE, UMR Herbivore)

Executive board: Philippe Malagoli (INRAE, UMR PIAF), Sylvain Dernat (UMR Territoires), Gaëlle Marliac (INRAE, UMR GDEC)

Context: We aim to co-design and evaluate with farmers new complex agroecosystems based on the principles of agroecology, with increased connectivity between crops, herbaceous cover, trees and animals. The implementation of ecological systems and synergies between animal and plant production, favoring the regulation of biogeochemical cycles and bio-aggressors, will be central to preserving both agricultural production and resources (water, soil, air, biodiversity) over the long term.

Objective: 3 specific objectives:
Build new cover crops combining crops and companion plants contributing to the ecological transition of field crops and/or the development of more sustainable livestock farming.
Design new herd management systems that promote animal diversification to make better use of plant resources and reduce inputs.
Implement methodologies for co-designing production systems with farmers to promote their acceptance, by mobilizing the knowledge produced on the previous two points.

AAP : AAP in progress

Axis 3: Interactions between agrosystems and their environments

Coordinators: Pierre Amato (ICCF), Julien Pottier (UREP)

Executive board: Alexandre Bec (LMGE), Anaïs Bompard (EPIA), Aurélie Colomb (LaMP), Maguy Eugene (INRAE, UMR Herbivore), Franck Jabot (UREP), Delphine Latour (LMGE), Erwan Rousel (GEOLAB).

Context: Interactions between agrosystems and their environment take the form of flows. The notion of flows implies transfers, transformations and gradients. All natural and synthetic, biological and chemical compounds circulate in our environment, undergoing biotic and abiotic transformations. They interact with terrestrial, aquatic and atmospheric interfaces. The aim is to understand the interactions between agricultural systems and their host environment.

Objectives: Gain a better understanding of how flows generate changes in ecological functioning. To achieve this, several issues are at stake:
To gain knowledge of the negative and positive impacts of these interactions, as well as their future evolution in a context of global change.
Quantitative knowledge of chemical/microbiological flows and movements of organisms between agro- and eco-systems, knowledge of their functional roles on different time and space scales, application of the meta-ecosystem concept to the agro-ecological transition, knowledge of chemical and biological transformation processes to reduce the negative impact of certain flows.

AAP : AAP in progress 

Axis 4: Integrating agrosystems into territories

Coordinators: Salma Loudiyi (VetAgro Sup, UMR Territoire), Jean-Denis Mathias (INRAE, LISC), Pascal Carrère (INRAE, UREP)

Executive board: Didier Rémond (UNH), Isabelle Verdier-Metz (URF), Juliette Bloor (UREP), Jean-Baptiste Pichancourt (LISC), Anne Bonis (GEOLAB), Virginie Baritaux (UMR Territoires), Chantale Chassaing (INRAE, UMR Herbivore), Nathalie Vassal (UREP), Michel Streith (Lapsco), Corinne Rochette (CLERMA), Frédéric Dubos (ISITE-CAP2025)

Context: In a context of anthropic pressure, the adaptive management of agroecosystems requires an understanding of how they function on a territorial scale. The societal challenges of agro-ecological transition require an understanding of all the socio-ecological interactions linked to stakeholder dynamics, public policies and agronomic and ecological issues facing farms, their supply chains and their territories.

Objective: Develop interdisciplinary and integrated approaches to promote the resilience of agrosystems (understood as socio-ecosystems). Deploy these approaches on a territorial scale. Particular attention will be paid to territorial and sustainable food systems, and to the links between rural and urban areas through integrative and multidisciplinary approaches.

AAP: AAP in progress and AAP Consortium in progress


The IRC-SAE brings together
  • 19 research units INRAE, UCA, CNRS, VetAgro Sup
  • belonging to several Institutes: LLSHS (Letters, Languages, Humanities and Social Sciences), SVSAE (Life Sciences, Health, Agronomy, Environment), SF (Fundamental Sciences)
  • 2 INRAE experimental units
  • 1 EPIC
  • 259 scientists 
Letters, Languages, Humanities and Social Sciences  Life Sciences, Health, Agronomy, Environment  Fundamental Sciences EPIC
UMR Herbivore

Experimental devices



As part of the PHénotypage Au Champs des Céréales (PHACC) experimental unit, the Phéno3C platform aims to study the effects of key climate change variables - water stress and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration - on the performance of field crops in agronomic situations. It applies high-throughput phenotyping methods to a large number of genotypes, enabling quantitative genetic approaches. The aim is to guide varietal selection towards varieties that are resistant/tolerant to future climatic conditions. The platform is also a tool for researching, developing and testing new high-throughput phenotyping methods for characterizing plant cover.

Site Web 


Herbipôle is a multi-disciplinary experimental platform for research on herbivores and grasslands, with a regional, national and European vocation. It is open to scientific and professional partners, and brings together complementary scientific approaches and disciplines in a single facility. The research projects carried out at Herbipôle focus on ruminant breeding systems in mountain grassland areas, with a view to preserving the well-being of these animals and the quality of their products (milk, cheese and meat), as well as their impact on the environment.

Site Web 





IRC-SAE is involved in the creation of 2 master's degrees in the Graduate Track « Changing environnements » - CAP Graduate School :

  • Master of Science and Technology in Agriculture, Food and the Environment, GLObal QUALity in European Livestock Production (GLOQUAL)
  • Master in Plant Biology : Plant Science Facing New Challenges 

International networks

  • The COPIL has initiated a Thesis AAP in co-supervision with an international team
  • 3 associated international laboratories (LIA) with China 
  • 2 International Research Networks (IRN) with Canada, Spain and Latin America 

Strengthening partnerships

  • 2 Living Labs : LIT GCA, LIT EHM 
  • Association: Allier sauvage (More information on the project: HERE
  • International

Interaction with local authorities & associations

Projects in progress

  • Charvols Arboretum. Proposals for research projects and training activities. This is an international project with a Swiss and a German network under the target theme: "Adapting trees to climate change". (More information on the project: HERE

Current projects 

  • Remediation of industrial wasteland in Montluçon, in partnership with ICCF (Institut de Chimie de Clermont-Ferrand), LMGE (Laboratoire Microorganismes : Génome Environnement), BRGM (Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières), BioBasics environnement and Montluçon Communauté. The aim is to carry out an exhaustive inventory of brownfield sites in the Montluçon conurbation, then identify one or two workshop sites on which to deploy bio-remediation strategies.

Completed projects

  • Bocage bourbonnais: valorization of animal by-products, co-products and (bio)waste in partnership with INRAE QuaPA (SiCABA)