Diversifood - enhancing resilience and productivity
Plant production and horticulture
“Diversity enhances the resilience and productivity of biological systems. This principle holds not only at the level of primary production, but also at the level of marketing and consequent human health” says Véronique Chable, coordinator of the DIVERSIFOOD project. The newly funded H2020 project DIVERSIFOOD will explore how currently underutilised and forgotten plant species could be more widely grown to increase the range and quality of crops and their products and contribute to sustainable agriculture.
“Despite the gradual increase of genetic resources conserved by gene banks over many decades, there has been a decrease in the amount of cultivated diversity (i.e. number of species, varieties in cultivation and diversity among varieties). In addition, there are insufficient varieties available for organic, low-input and marginal and/or specific agriculture which are able to cope with highly heterogeneous and fluctuating growing environments” Véronique says. “Diversity is the key for to greater sustainability and a robust strategy for coping with climate change”.
Linked with the diversity concept, the second innovation of the project lays in its methodology, the ‘multi-actor approach’. The project brings together farmers, scientists, processors, traders and consumers to promote the greater use of diverse plants and produce with a local and cultural identity. By integrating existing networks across Europe, the project will strengthen the “food culture” to achieve local high quality food systems. Key-lessons based on the diverse experiences in the project will be shared to support on-farm seed production networks to guarantee high quality seed.
Activities will be developed on several important crops and vegetables in Europe: (core-species) bread and durum wheat, maize (including sweet corn), tomato and broccoli; (case-species) buckwheat, barley, lupin, carrots, faba beans, onions and minor crops. The project will evaluate and enrich the diversity of cultivated plants within diverse agroecosystems so as to increase their performance, resilience, quality and use. As an example of underutilised forms of major crops, different breeding strategies of maize populations for human consumption will be assessed on their robustness and on the end use qualities. At the same time, new food products will be developed connected with local food culinary heritage. On broccoli and buckwheat, new populations with high genetic diversity will be generated by using forgotten genetic resources. These cultivars will be assessed though a multi-actor approach, to meet the needs of the organic sector, with a strong emphasis on the organoleptic and nutritional qualities.