Montpellier SupAgro (France) – University of Copenhagen

AgTraIn > Partners > Montpellier

Montpellier SupAgro (France)

I. The Training Institute: Montpellier SUPAGRO

Montpellier is the highest research and training concentration in France in the field of agriculture, food science, the environment and biodiversity: it has over 100 research units and 4000 staff of which 2200 work in teaching and research.

Created in January 2007, Montpellier SupAgro brings together the former Montpellier National Superior School of Agronomy and the former National Center for Tropical and Sub-Tropical Environments which were hundred years old institutions. It now focuses primarily on training human resources in Agricultural Sciences, natural and biobased resources, mostly at the post graduate level. The emphasis on Mediterranean and developing countries is reinforced by activities of the University Institute for Tropical Agrofood Industries and rural Development (IRC). It offers a capacity for 1250 students, including 250 PhD students.

Beside the support departments, the five teaching and research departments group teachers and researchers by broad disciplines or themes : Plant Sciences, Ecology and Plant Health, Environment, Crops, Resources and Systems, Agro-bio-process Sciences, Economic, Social and Management Sciences. This structure enables Montpellier SupAgro to manage teaching policy effectively and keep the multidisciplinary approach required.

Under the Mediterranean sun, the 27 ha of the campus offer a privileged place of life, ten minutes from the city centre and twenty minutes from the seaside.

II. The Associated Research Units

9 Joint Research Units (JRU or UMR as the French acronym) are associated to the Agtrain PhD. They are hereafter classified along the five main fields of research the doctorate is considering.

Innovation and Development in Agriculture and the Agrifood Sector
The JRU Innovation is organised into three teams, which examine complementary aspects of innovation in the agrifood sector. Each team has a different approach : technical change in farms and advisory services (disciplines: agronomy, farm economics and management), territorial dynamics and innovation in the governance of periurban agricultural areas (disciplines: geography and regional economics) and innovations in the social construction of products and markets with or without a specific geographic origin, evaluating their impacts on territories (disciplines: economics, anthropology, economic sociology and law).
Research highlights:

  • Innovation in Localised Agrifood Systems (SYAL)
  • Social construction of agrifood markets 
  • Changes in Farms and design of farming systems 
  • Agricultural advisory services 
  • Periurban Agriculture and territorial governance



At Eco&Sols, the aim of the research is to use ecological engineering to propose scientifically-based practices to maintain and improve the agricultural and environmental functions of agro-ecosystems.
The research undertaken by Eco&Sols seeks to describe and understand the ecological processes of primary production and the regulation of the carbon and nutrient fluxes in the agro-systems, in particular:

  • major nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient cycles
  • eco-system regulation services, specifically carbon sequestration the storage of carbon and emission of greenhouse gases and the ecodynamics of biological contaminants (viruses, prions and Bt).

JRU Eco&Sols is a joint research unit with staff from INRA, IRD, Montpellier SupAgro and CIRAD. It specialises in Mediterranean and tropical agrosystems and works closely with many foreign organisations to whom JRU staff are assigned.

Animal Husbandry in Warm Regions

Animal production systems in tropical and Mediterranean areas rely on feed resources that vary considerably in the course of the year and from one year to the next. In such situations, the priority for research is the interactions between nutritional aspects on the one hand and production factors, including reproduction, milk production and growth, on the other. It is vital to understand the factors that govern animal production performance in such difficult environments.
Studies of individual animals, herds and territories serve to assess the impact of animal production constraints on the different production functions. The relations between performance and the environment in its broadest sense are pinpointed through modelling, using data gathered through surveys (Mediterranean and tropical zones) and more analytical measurements made at experimental stations (Mediterranean zones). This overall approach fits in with a move to reduce the risks for animals and ensure the sustainability of animal production systems in difficult environments. Original training courses in animal production in hot regions are available in-house.

Annual cropping systems

The Units ambition is to design efficient, sustainable tropical annual cropping systems, from an economic, social and environmental point of view. It builds on recognized expertise and multidisciplinary teams working for the main tropical annual crops The main fields of expertise range from analyses of genotype-environment interactions, bioenergies, crop diseases management, ecophysiology, soil science and systemic agronomy.
The Unit includes five operational teams: 

  • Knowledge and modelling of annual cropping system functioning ; 
  • Characterization and management of environmental risks ; 
  • Product quality elaboration and management ; 
  • Remote Sensing tools, information systems, simulation techniques and spatial analysis 
  • Decision support, spatial organization and production chain economics; 
  • Paddy based sustainable cropping systems in Madagascar 


Functioning and management of Mediterranean and Tropical Cropping Systems

The unit generates knowledge and tools for use in assessing, steering and developing cropping systems. It is particularly interested in integrated input management and in using the biodiversity of cultivated species to ensure consistent agronomic performance in terms of both yields and quality, while keeping environmental risks (water pollution, erosion, biodiversity degradation) to a minimum.
Its studies cover cropping systems based on herbaceous and woody perennial crops (banana in the former case and grape vines, timber trees, palms and rubber in the latter). They centre on comparing monoculture and intercropping systems: relay crops, intercrops and agroforestry. Research is also under way on annual crop-based systems, using agroecological techniques in establishing crop management sequences involving very low use of chemical inputs.

Agroecological Functioning and Performances of Horticultural Cropping Systems

Inventing an ecologically intensive type of horticulture so as to feed people better: this is a wide-ranging mandate for Hortsys, whose main aim is to generate and capitalize on knowledge so as to assess and design sustainable horticultural cropping systems. The issues are huge: satisfying growing global demand for fruit and vegetables and facilitating the economic and social development of farmers in developing countries while preserving the environment and reducing the risks for human health and ecosystems.
Horticulture is now seen as an essential factor in food security and safety and health worldwide. Horticultural systems are a major source of income and jobs for the poorest populations in tropical areas. In this context, is it possible to reduce the adverse effects of massive pesticide use in horticultural cropping systems, while maintaining high, sustainable productivity and producing safe, quality products? The unit believes that this target can be met, through improved knowledge and use of the interactions and biological regulation mechanisms within horticultural cropping systems. Its aim is to establish the principles of the agroecology of tropical horticultural systems, before applying them in order to design sustainable cropping systems, in partnership with local players.

Social dynamics and governance of natural resources (IRD)

Assessment of the current transformations in the linkages between society and the natural or the transformed environment : biodiversity, climate change, water uses and management, social organisations involved in the use of natural resources, allocation of resources and policies related to them.


Food quality is a source of great concern for consumers, agrifood firms and health professionals. To fulfil their expectations, it is necessary to understand how quality develops along the production, processing and distribution chain.

The JRU unit Qualisud aims at developing an integrated system for the production and preservation of top quality foodstuffs in developing countries. Its operations centre on two complementary lines of research. The first is identifying what determines quality: characterizing metabolites of organoleptic and nutritional interest and the physical attributes of quality; determining product aromatic quality and how aroma compounds develop; and food safety. The second is ensuring better quality by controlling processes: improving fresh product shelf life; developing stabilization and processing techniques that ensure high added-value products; and controlling fermentation processes.
Contact :

Markets, Organizations, Institutions and Operators' Strategies (MOISA)

The JRU MOISA examines issues relating to Governance of sustainable development of agribusiness systems in Mediterranean and tropical countries, more precisely:

  •  Operators strategies, either private or public, individual (consumers) or collective (social market or non-market production groups),
  • Their internal (companies) or external (vertical and horizontal coordination) organisation structure
  • And the operations of the institutions (markets, regulations) as they apply to agricultural, agribusiness and rural systems.

Particular emphasis has been placed on the strategies, coordination methods and institutions linked to the implementation of the sustainable development project.
Contact :

LAMETA (Montpellier Laboratory for Theoretical and Applied Economics) LAMETA is a joint research unit in economics of the University of Montpellier 1, CNRS, INRA and Montpellier SupAgro. It brings together 36 researchers and faculties, 15 engineers and administrative staff, and about 50 PhD students and postdocs on two campus: the Faculty of Economics (site Richter) and SupAgro campus.

The research is organized following five themes: Behavioral economics and finance, Public choice and social ethics, Economics of competition and regulation, Policies for sustainable development and natural resource management, Economics of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

This work leads to the production of about fifty journal articles and to the defence of eight PhD per year. The laboratory is involved in three high level research projects (LABEX) : Agro, Entrepreneurship, and Centre Méditerranéen pour lEnvironnement et la Biodiversité (CeMEB).

Laboratory for studies of soils-agrosystems/hydrosystem interactions (LISAH)
(Laboratoire d'études des interactions sol-agrosystème-hydrosystème (LISAH)
The LISAH JRU/UMR groups both researchers and has academic staff from the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), the Institute of Research for Development (IRD) and Montpellier SupAgro.

Its central research theme is the study of the spatial organization and hydrology of agricultural landscapes both in developed and developing countries. Its three main research programmes include (1) spatial structures, soil dynamics and cultivated landscapes; 2) Erosion and solid transport; 3) water and watershed pollutants.

The main research fields are in France (Languedoc-Roussillon, French West Indies) and in North Africa (Tunisia, Morroco). The LISAH unit manages a long term environmental observatory, called OMERE (Observatoire Méditerranéen de lEnvironnement Rural et de lEau), which aims at studying the impact of human activities on runoff, erosion and subsequent changes in water quality. This observatory consists of two experimental catchments located in Southern France near Montpellier and in Tunisia in the Cap Bon region. It also manages a modelling platform called OpenFluid.