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Modélisation des transitions en agriculture : énergie, azote, et capacité nourricière de la France dans la longue durée (1882-2016) et prémices pour une généralisation à l'échelle mondiale

Abstract : To overcome the challenges of climate change and energy transition, combined with the projected population growth in the 21st century, agriculture must transform itself to produce more food while reducing its dependence on non-renewables sources and preserving ecosystems. This thesis examines the impacts of biophysical constraints and socio-technical transformations on agricultural metabolism, transitions and feeding capacity of agriculture. Agricultural metabolism is modelled through both energy and nitrogen flows that the agricultural system mobilizes and converts to operate and to supply biomass. This analytical framework allows us, on the one hand, to position agriculture within the energy transition challenges and, on the other hand, to jointly quantify the achievable feeding capacity and its impact on global biogeochemical cycles. Agricultural metabolism is examined at two spatial and temporal scales: a long-term historical perspective modelling (1882-2016) at the scale of France and a historical (1961-2013) and prospective modelling at the global scale. The analysis of French agriculture is based on the modelling of historical production data and means of production. We explore the mechanisms that link the inputs and outputs of the agricultural system, together with the associated energy and nitrogen transitions continuously since 1882. We characterize the French trajectory on the basis of efficiency indicators, energy return on energy investment, farm surplus, self-sufficiency and energy neutrality of the system. Energy neutrality is a key indicator for positioning agriculture in the future energy transition. We quantify the impact of socio-technical transformations on transitions that have quadrupled the farm surplus and reduced its energy self-sufficiency to almost zero. Agriculture produced twice as much energy as it did in pre-industrial times, compared to four times today, but it has gone from an energy self-sufficient system fed by biomass to a system almost exclusively dependent on fossil fuels. Expressed in biomass equivalent, agriculture's current energy consumption is equal to its production, therefore a system that is not energetically viable. The challenge for agriculture is to contribute to the energy transition without encroaching on its food production. Meeting this challenge, which is little understood by society, requires improving the energy performance of agriculture and involves improving nitrogen use efficiency, as well as reducing livestock production, especially from monogastrics, decreasing farm labor needs, together with a high energy recovery from agricultural residues. Global-scale modelling allows us to describe the agriculture trajectory in terms of feeding capacity and environmental impact and to assess its food production limits on the basis of biophysical constraints. This modeling is a first module focused on the nitrogen metabolism and does not take into consideration the energy operating regime of agriculture. We examine the limits of world food production along with nitrogen losses according to degrees of nitrogen self-sufficiency. We show how maximum supportable human population on Earth can range from 6 to 17 billion people depending on the share of total grain production used in animal feed, the nitrogen use efficiency and the nitrogen fertilization regime. This analysis allows comparing, as it is rarely done, official population projections for the 21st century with planetary biophysical constraints and discuss the conditions under which these projections can be achieved.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 11:48:08 AM
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Souhil Harchaoui. Modélisation des transitions en agriculture : énergie, azote, et capacité nourricière de la France dans la longue durée (1882-2016) et prémices pour une généralisation à l'échelle mondiale. Géographie. Université de Paris, 2019. Français. ⟨NNT : 2019UNIP7003⟩. ⟨tel-02940384⟩



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