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News from bursary recipient Laure Waridel: a summer in Brittany to study soils

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Marie-Élise Samson, an agronomist by training, is this year’s winner of the Laure Waridel bursary. She is working with world leaders to determine the best agricultural practices to be used to store carbon in agricultural soils and thus combat climate change.

Check out her very first blog post and her page on Équiterre's website.


Brittany, summer 2018

Soils are living, rich and very complex environments. A set of mostly unknown physical, chemical and microbiological processes are constantly taking place under our feet. Understanding these processes could enable us to promote agronomic practices that ensure healthy soils and food sovereignty in the future. Perhaps we could even find ways to store atmospheric carbon in agricultural soils to help counter the impact of climate change! To achieve this, however, researchers from different disciplines must come together to try to unravel the unresolved mysteries of agricultural soils.

It is with this in mind that I carried out a research internship at Agrocampus Ouest in Brittany from January to June 2018. This allowed me to benefit from the internationally renowned expertise of French research teams on agricultural soils and the modelling of biological systems. Modelling is a computer tool that allows us to better predict, through complex mathematical models, the long-term effects of certain agricultural practices on crop yields and the environment. In addition to working closely with the on-site research team, I was able to participate in a variety of educational sessions and present the preliminary results of the project during three different lectures.


During my absence this winter, colleagues from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dr. Anne Vanasse's research team at Université Laval oversaw the preparation of the experimental plots in the field. Thanks to their meticulous work, the soybean plots already look terrific and promise great results! In parallel with fieldwork, laboratory tests are progressing well. The team and I are currently trying to develop a novel experimental method that could allow us to better understand the role that microorganisms play in the agronomic and environmental functions of soils.


The innovative aspect of our research enabled me to win the very prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship in March. This will allow us to invest the time and resources necessary to further support our research. The preliminary results are very promising. We hope that they will enable us to take a further step towards understanding how agricultural soils work and developing agriculture that provides social and environmental solutions.


By the end of the month, I will submit a first scientific article on the effect of agricultural soil conservation practices on the yields of grain corn, wheat and soybeans in a Quebec soil climate context. The results disseminated will be presented this fall to students at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire de la Pocatière, agronomy students at Université Laval and to producers who are members of the Côte-du-Sud agricultural advisory group.

The visibility offered to the project by the announcement of the Laure Waridel bursary has also allowed me to develop a collaboration with the Regeneration Canada group, whose mission is to catalyze systemic change to facilitate soil regeneration across the country. Among other things, I will collaborate in public education and the improvement of literature on soil regeneration and I may also have the opportunity to present some of the project's results at the Living Soils Symposium in the fall of 2019.


The support of Équiterre and the Caisse d'Économie solidaire Desjardins is allowing me to fully achieve my outreach and information dissemination objectives. I make it my duty to raise awareness of the social and environmental importance of agricultural soils. I would therefore like to thank all members once again for their valuable support. I will be sure to give you more news this winter and to share the dates of any outreach presentations with you.

Wishing you all a happy fall, and see you soon!

Marie-Élise Samson