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Montpellier Centre

The Montpellier Centre forms partnerships with all those involved in research and higher education in the region.

Its three research units work with the IRD, Cirad, AgroParisTech and with Montpellier Sup Agro. Its equipment policy is open to the entire scientific community and its teams are heavily involved with regional initiatives aimed at structuring research, particularly through the Invest for the Future Programme. Irstea has also forged close links with the regional authorities, especially for producing maps of agricultural land threatened by urban growth and the regional development of the Thau basin. In 2010, an agreement was signed with the Hérault General Council whereby the Centre can provide support to the region’s environmental management.

► 3 Joint Research Units actively cultivate ties between Irstea, AgroParisTech, IAM Montpellier, IRD and Montpellier SupAgro.

Led in partnership within joint research units, their research produces knowledge, develops management methods and procedures aimed at businesses, local authorities and public decision-makers. Using three joint research units, Irstea leads research in Montpellier and brings skills and expertise about the environment and agriculture in the following areas:

  • Environmental technologies
  • Water use
  • Remote sensing and information systems

Research focus                                        

Studying canopy heights with an airborne ultraviolet LIDAR system

The purpose of this project is to study the structure of standing crops in Landes using a sample of the vegetation stock obtained by LIDAR technology. The airborne ultra-violet LIDAR prototype* used to gather images of the canopy is the fruit of the partnership between the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Irstea and the CEA (French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission). Compact and multi-purpose, the LIDAR unit is carried by a ULM (microlight aircraft) which allows for unrivalled manoeuvrability and very variable instrument settings (divergence, field of vision, vertical and horizontal resolutions, viewing angle etc.) which are not possible with the factory-sized topographical LIDAR units which are generally used for studying forests.

A wide range of possible applications

Using different experimental configurations, this experimental LIDAR system has already promoted the study of three plots consisting chiefly of maritime pine. The main results of the study have concerned statistical descriptions of vertical structures (such as the height and the distribution of the canopy and undergrowth).

*LIDAR: light detection and ranging or laser remote sensing

Aerial photography for localised weed control

The ability to detect noxious weeds among crops in real-time using digital vision remains a major obstacle for performing localised weed control. The RHEA European project is tackling this problem using a new concept: an automated fleet of drones flies over the plots at a very low altitude, which allows delayed image processing to detect areas of infestation; autonomous land-based machines are then guided towards these areas to carry out chemical, mechanical or thermal weed control depending upon crop type. This approach, aimed mainly at service companies, should eventually reduce herbicide use by up to 70%.

Research topics

Joint research units

The Remote Sensing Centre

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Partner websites

In figures

  • 110 permanent staff
  • 120 contract staff including 25 doctoral students, 5 post-doctoral students, 50 trainees, 40 staff on fixed-term contracts
  • an annual budget, not including salaries of public employees, of over 3 million euros, of which two-thirds are funded through own resources via research or transfer agreements and contracts;
  • experiment and testing rooms;
  • a multifunctional experimental station (Gignac canal and Lavalette sites)
  • the MINEA incubator for welcoming budding firms


Practical information