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Céline Pelosi, a mission to China thanks to the 2013 Zhang-Heng programme

Céline Pelosi, a research scientist in ecotoxicology at the INRA Centre in Versailles-Grignon, and award winner under the 2013 Zhang-Heng programme, recently spent a week in China discussing sustainable agriculture.

Céline Pelosi, award winner under the 2013 Zhang-Heng programme, in China in October 2013 © Inra
Updated on 12/04/2013
Published on 11/07/2013

Céline Pelosi works daily on how cropping systems and cultivation practices - and particularly pesticide use - have an impact soil biodiversity, in the Research Unit for the Physico-Chemistry and Ecotoxicology of Soils from Contaminated Agrosystems at the INRA Centre in Versailles-Grignon.

It was therefore quite natural for her to apply to the French Agency for the Promotion of Higher Education, International Student Services and Mobility in order to participate in the 2013 Zhang-Heng programme focusing on the subject of the sustainability of Chinese agriculture.

At the end of the summer, she learnt with pleasure that she would be one of the eight people selected, who included a total of four young research scientists from INRA.

A particularly busy schedule

The award winners travelled to Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai between 20 and 27 October 2013, where they visited research institutes, universities and various farms.  Institutional meetings, supplemented by discussions with French companies active in Chinese agriculture, allowed the young scientists to improve their knowledge of the research carried out in this field in China.  The programme was organised by the Science Department of the French Embassy to China, in collaboration with its Trade and Industry Department and the INRA-CIRAD permanent office for China.

Producing more and better, a real Chinese puzzle

China is faced with the challenge of feeding 1.4 billion people, or 20% of the world's population, even though it only benefits from 7% of the arable land available on our planet, its water resources are poorly distributed and the dietary behaviours of Chinese consumers are changing.  This issue poses important questions to research regarding the sustainability of agriculture, while it also opens numerous opportunities for collaboration between French and Chinese agricultural research bodies working in the fields of environmental evaluation, soil and water pollution, the health safety of foods, cropping systems for organic farming and many others.

Prospects for cooperation

During this week of visits, and in this constantly changing context, the complementarity of French and Chinese experiences and approaches enabled some intense debate.  Wholly satisfied by their trip, several award winners have already identified opportunities for partnerships, including Céline Pelosi.

Franco-Chinese cooperation in agricultural research

As from the mid-1970s, INRA researchers were developing strong and sustainable collaborative links with China.  In more recent years, INRA's cooperation with China has continued to develop, and four years ago, INRA organised its efforts with Chinese partners around three major scientific areas of mutual interest: wheat genomics, developmental biology and gut microbial ecology.  These programmes have since been supplemented by a large number of contacts being made at the initiative of specific scientists, based on the complementary nature of their research work.

The Zhang-Heng Programme, which was set up in 2011 by the Science Department of the French Embassy to China, is designed to help young research scientists and engineers working in France to discover the research performed in China in their fields, so that they can then identify potential partners and develop opportunities for future collaboration.