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ASPIRE
Asparagus: integrating research on decline in Europe

This project will form a network of European Union researchers, consultants and growers that specialises in asparagus, an EU crop valued at 950 million euros per annum. Decline is the most important pan-EU problem for asparagus growers and makes the crop unprofitable to grow. The factors that cause decline are both biotic and abiotic. Expertise from across the EU and in New Zealand will provide an integrated strategy to solve this problem. The network will go on to develop a unified strategy for reducing or delaying the effects of decline. This information will be made available to growers in a user-friendly form and the network will coordinate future research on asparagus across the EU.

Objectives
The overall objectives of the project are:
1) to collate, evaluate and document in a database the existing information on the incidence, causal factors and current controls against decline in EU asparagus crops, drawing also on relevant information from non-EU countries
2) to develop a unified EU strategy for reducing or delaying the effects of decline, and to coordinate future research across the EU.

The detailed objectives are:
1) to collect information on the incidence in EU crops of the biotic factors (mainly Fusarium spp.) and abiotic factors (for example, fertiliser use, plant density and soil drainage) that are considered the most important causal factors of decline
2) to identify and quantify the risk factors for decline in EU asparagus crops. To design a database that can be used by researchers and growers to improve their decision-making processes.
3) to identify gaps in current understanding, and outline a research programme to overcome current limitations with the objective of developing robust management techniques to reduce or prevent asparagus decline
4) to disseminate the results of the concerted action to EU asparagus growers by the production of a handbook and web pages, and by using this activity to set up an informal network for involvement in further work that might be done.
5) to initiate the organisation of an international asparagus conference. The aim is to work with another organisation, such as the International Society of Horticultural Science (ISHS).

Progress to Date
Dr K. Green took over the role of project coordinator from Mrs S. Runham in June 2002, with approval from the EC.
Based on discussions and presentations at all of the workshops, recommendations for the approach and details of a unified research strategy on asparagus decline in Europe, were identified and formatted into a summary report.
The project website was updated during the project as new information became available and represents a database of information on asparagus decline, of use to both growers and researchers. The website prompted email communication from researchers as far afield as Australia, who showed interest in the project. The majority of web pages are in the public domain but there is also the password-protected facility of a discussion board and details of proposal developments, for use by project participants only.
A Growers' Handbook on asparagus decline has been prepared by ADAS participants and widely distributed.

Results
There are several ways in which the ASPIRE Concerted Action has contributed successfully to the coordination of scientific research efforts and activities on asparagus decline in Europe.

A growers' perspective
Data confirmed the magnitude of the problem and provided a sound basis for addressing decline at a European level. Grower responses also confirmed researchers' conclusions that decline is a complex problem involving interactions between a range of biotic and abiotic factors, with no simple solutions available to manage it.

A critical mass of researchers
Despite the importance of asparagus as a high value speciality crop in Europe, it is still a minor crop from a funding perspective, so the extent to which research can be undertaken at a national level is limited. The ASPIRE project has enabled a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and growers, with key expertise on asparagus, to be assembled.

Current 'state of the art' on asparagus decline
The structure of the project enabled currently available information on asparagus decline to be collated. Individual participants prepared technical papers in their own areas of expertise, which provided the basis for workshop discussions and subsequent compilation of project deliverables. Information assembled on asparagus production in participating countries provided a useful background for technical data on possible causal factors, research methods and the economic impact of decline. Once an overview of decline had been collated, it was possible to assess the importance of different aspects of decline, to identify gaps in understanding and to formulate research recommendations. The project website represents a database of the material gathered and presents information in formats readily useable for both growers and researchers.

Research recommendations
Detailed technical discussions at the project workshops enabled a consensus to be reached among participants regarding reasons for the onset of decline and the potential role of Fusarium spp. However, individual participants remained divided as to the relative importance of specific biotic and abiotic factors in the development of decline and several hypotheses were formed, which will provide the basis for future research activities.

Researcher network
During the ASPIRE project, participant researchers formed a strong network, which is likely to evolve further beyond the life of the project.

Links with the industry
Throughout the project, existing links between researchers and growers were strengthened.

Coordination of future research
Through the identification of research gaps as one of the project activities, the Concerted Action provided an ideal opportunity for proposal development towards a unified research strategy for asparagus decline.

Classified in ARABLE CROPS, HORTICULTURE

Scientist responsible for the project

Dr KIM GREEN
ADAS Arthur Rickwood, Mepal
CB6 2BA Ely, Cambridgeshire
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 1354 692531
Fax: +44 1354 694488
E-mail: kim.green@adas.co.uk

References

Project ID QLRT-1999-30861
Organisation ADAS Consulting Limited, ADAS Arthur Rickwood
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 January 2001
Duration (months) 24
Total cost 211 326 €
Total EC contribution   161 326 €
Status Completed

The partners

  • H V Aveling, United Kingdom (The) - GB
  • APPLIED RESEARCH FOR ARABLE FARMING AND FIELD PRODUCTION OF VEGETABLES, Netherlands (The) - NL
    info@pav.agro.nl
  • Instituto Sperimentale per L'orticultura, Italy - IT
    isoml@apm.it
  • Joseph und Gerda Harbich, Austria - AT
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