Le Merle Experimental Estate at Salon de Provence
Director : Pierre-Marie BOUQUET
Deputy director: François Charron
The Merle estate is on the Crau plain close to Salon de Provence and at the foot of the Alpilles. It covers 415 hectares: 150 hectares of irrigated grasslands and 250 hectares of ‘coussouls’, dry steppe typical of la Crau.
There are three sheep sheds with experimental facilities and a flock of 1400 Arles Merino ewes.
These are farmed using the traditional transhumance system and are used for experiments done in collaboration with INRA and the regional sheep farming commodity chain.
In the summer the flock moves to an alpine area of about 1500 hectares (160 hectares are owned) close to St Martin d’Entraunes in the Mercantour National Park.
Download (in french) the page about activities at the estate.
The irrigated meadows produces a Crau hay crop (AOC: Appellation d’Origine Controlée). They benefit from a gravity irrigation network which has been completely renovated. The remarkable experimental characteristics of this system are used for a number of research programmes on agricultural hydraulics.
Download (in french) the page for ‘Water’ research activities on the estate.
Other activities are being developed at this site linking in with regional development:
· horse breeding with the addition of a breeding centre for the Uzès stud soon
· the creation of a multi-department centre linked to horse breeding for the French national studs.
In parallel a large renovation programme for the old buildings on site is under way and the construction of new buildings to house these new activities has started (offices for researchers and PhD students, classrooms, lecture halls, accommodation for people on work placements and restaurants).
The Merle estate also houses the CFPPA facilities (centre for professional training and agricultural development) where transhumance shepherds have been trained for more than 50 years and which has given the estate a reputation for being an important centre for Provencal shepherding.