A holistic view of Maraîchage sur Sol Vivant : participatory action research with a group of market gardeners in France
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- Master’s theses (BioVit) 
A recent farmer-led movement called Maraîchage sur Sol Vivant (MSV) or in English, “market gardening on living soil” gathers market gardeners that develop agroecological cropping practices that place soil at heart of their cropping systems. In Drôme-Ardèche (France) a group of market gardeners have committed themselves to a four-year project with the aim to improve the performance of their farming systems with the practices of Maraîchage sur Sol Vivant. One part of this project was to co-design and co-evaluate innovative cropping practices on nine participant farms of the group, using a research methodology based on: (1) diagnosis of the initial situation on each farm, (2) co-design of innovative cropping practices, (3) collaborative creation of the co-evaluation process, (4) on-farm co-evaluation of the innovative cropping practices using simple indicators of performances, and (5) final group meeting to present and discuss the results of the on-farm co-evaluations. The aim of the participatory action research was to characterise Maraîchage sur Sol Vivant in regard to the participant farmers motivation, sources of inspiration, learning processes and cropping practices, and to explore the research methodology that was based on co-design and co-evaluation of innovative cropping practices. Through semi-structured interviews with the market gardeners from the group, this case study has identified farmers motivations, sources of inspirations and learning processes that shed light on farmers’ engagement in Maraîchage sur Sol Vivant. The findings highlight five cropping practices characteristics of the nine MSV-farms: (1) reduced tillage, (2) organic matter additions and mulches, (3) green manure and cover crops, (4) plastic covers, and (5) prophylactic management, that ensure diverse functions such as (1) soil protection, (2) soil regeneration, (3) crop health, and (4) work convenience. Pre-requisites for and outcomes of the participatory action research methodology have been identified. The co-evaluation of the cropping practices has shown to increase farmers’ mutual and experiential learning and their ability to implement change. Future research should include multi-sites randomized trials to (1) assess the sustainability and provide understanding of MSV-cropping practices (2) identify the pre-requisites for implementing these cropping practices, and (3) improve potential for adaptation and adoption.