Agricultural Land

The Touraine Loire Valley is extremely rural, dominated by a mixture of agricultural, forestry and pastoral land usage. Crops such as wheat, barley, canola, sunflowers and maize are widespread on the flat or gently sloping land. Vines grow on limestone slopes, cattle are pastured on the lusher riverside meadows. Particularly along parts of the Cher Valley there are extensive market gardens and in several pockets (eg around Azay le Rideau and Veigné) there are apple and pear orchards.

A well run vineyard in Vouvray. Viticulture in France uses 20% of all pesticides used in French agriculture. Fortunately the Touraine Loire Valley vineyards tend to use significantly less than other wine growing areas, but fungicides in particular are applied to vines several times a year (depending on the weather).

Even in well run vineyards, where wild vegetation is allowed to grow between the rows in an approach known as agriculture raisonnée (='intelligent agriculture', also including integrated pest management) is popular, there is no denying that vineyards are relatively low in biodiversity (but better than cereal or oilseed crops).
Flinty clay (Fr. argilo-siliceux) soil in Vouvray AOC, favoured for making light refreshing still and sparkling dry whites. The flint (or chert) is visible as purple or orangey brown stones. The grapes from this soil are small and not very sweet.

Chalky (Fr. argilo-calcaire) soil in Vouvray AOC, favoured for making smooth rounded and complex still white wines. The grapes from this soil will be sweeter and juicier than the flint soil above. The soil is full of fossils such as shells, sponges and corals.

Poplar plantations abound on low lying land prone to flooding. The wood is used for lumber, cheese and fruit boxes and biofuel. Unfortunately poplar is frequently planted on water meadow, a rapidly disappearing habitat that is home to rare plants such as Snakeshead Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris.
Typical bocage pasture -- small fields of lush, unimproved damp meadow, surrounded by a hedge. This is a fast disappearing habitat which is host to rare flowers such as the Snakeshead Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris.
Arable: The Centre Loire Valley Region of France is the largest cereal producer in Western Europe. The area under cereal and other arable crops is growing (mostly at the expense of pasture, hedges and copses) and arable farmers receive the most subsidies of any sector of agriculture. The main crops in the Touraine Loire Valley are wheat, barley, canola, sunflowers and maize. Also grown are millet, sorghum, peas, field beans, soy beans, lucerne (alfalfa) and flax.
View across a small valley at Panzoult. The crop is barley, one of the 3 major overwintering crops in the Touraine Loire Valley. The Downy Oak Quercus pubescens covered limestone ridge in the background is one of the most important sites for the rare orchid Red Helleborine Cephalanthera rubra.

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