Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Diversifying Mediterranean agriculture to combat climate change

Project acronym: SWUP-MED

Title of project: Sustainable water use securing food production in dry areas of the Mediterranean region

Research area: Agriculture & Forestry (Annual food crops with improved tolerance to multiple abiotic stresses)

Contract No: 212337

EU contribution: €2 728 000 000 EURO

Start date: June 2008

Duration: 48 months


Environmental conditions in the Mediterranean region are expected to change resulting in increased stress on plant growth. Changing climate, drier conditions, higher temperatures and greater variability in weather may lead to desertification over time. Such multiple abiotic stresses will impact on food production in the region. This project aims to lessen the impact of such environmental change by working with rural communities to improve farming systems, by strengthening a diversified crop rotation and using marginal-quality water for supplemental irrigation.

The partners also expect to introduce and test new crops and cultivars with improved stress tolerances that are more resistant to the expected climate changes. This will be done by selecting promising varieties of cereals, grain legumes and new crops not previously cultivated in the region.

Climate-proof traits will be identified for breeding programmes using advanced physiological and biochemical screening tools. Supplemental irrigation will be performed using irrigation based on various sources of water. The sustainable field applicability of the farming systems will be investigated. This will include looking at the environmental effects related to irrigation water quality assessed by monitoring groundwater and soil quality. Financial implications for the farmer and economic costs and benefits in the food sector will be analysed.

The research programme, using dynamic tools that ease adaptation to the effects of a variable and changing climate, will be developed in discussion with the food sector, based on experimental results and advanced simulation modelling to improve farming systems management. The approach is participatory, involving the farming community, the market and those at a political level.

Expected impacts

The project is expected to create a general awareness of problems arising from stress caused by potential climate change in the Mediterranean region, as well as outlining solutions dealing with such abiotic stresses. In particular, it will help economic development in non-European Mediterranean countries.

Expected results

The project should result in the identification of more diverse farming systems with improved productivity and sustainability on a range of agricultural land types under varying climatic conditions. It will accelerate the adoption of improved agricultural practices and technologies to meet future constraints imposed by climate changes. SWUP-MED will provide guidelines and recommendations for farmers and extension services detailing the best management of water, crops, soil and field under a wide range of possible abiotic stresses.

The project is expected to identify new traits within cereal crops, creating climate-proof varieties of stable yield and quality, and will test the new crops in terms of their potential to cope with multiple stress factors in target environments. It will provide results from studies on soil water conservation and supplemental irrigation from test fields, as well as indicating the effects of using marginal-quality water (saline water and treated wastewater) on soil properties, such as soil salinisation and the presence of undesirable constituents like nitrates and heavy metals. A model will be produced to describe the effect of such water management on water-use efficiency, salinity distribution and crop yield.

It will produce guidelines and recommendations for farmers and extension services on best management of water, crops, soil and field under multiple abiotic stresses. By enhancing our understanding of social and economic factors affecting local farmers, it will evaluate their willingness to adopt the proposed farming systems and new crops and identify local policy impacting on farming systems, new crops, water saving and food safety.

To maximise the exploitation of the results it will generate papers, reports, methodology and guidelines to both stakeholders and policy-makers.

Website of


Coordinator: Sven-Erik Jacobsen,

Organisation: Copenhagen University, Denmark,


International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Syria,

National Research Council, Italy,

Institute of Agriculture and Veterinary Science II, Morocco,

Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe, Egypt,

The University of Western Australia, Australia,

University of Cukurova, Turkey,

Natural Environment Research Council, UK,

Instituto De Tecnologia Quimica E Biologica - Universidade Nova De Lisboa, Portugal,