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Conference - Towards sustainable agriculture for developing countries: options from life sciences and biotechnologies
Last update: 27/02/2003 Element graphique Element graphique
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How can life sciences provide added value from agrobiodiversity?

Rhizobial biodiversity: Helping crops to feed themselves

Child in the middle of leguminous cropsLeguminous crops are of great importance throughout the developing world, providing a valuable source of protein in the human diet as well as animal fodder and pollen for honey production. However, they are also key assets for sustainable agriculture, thanks to their root nodules.

These nodules contain bacteria called rhizobia, which fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it available to the plant. One consequence of this is a reduction in the need for nitrogen fertilisers. China is a region of particularly high rhizobial diversity and this natural resource remains poorly explored and under exploited.

A European Commission-funded project (INCO programme) focused on the characterisation of Chinese rhizobial resources, matching plant and rhizobial strains, identifying compatibility markers and improving the quality of rhizobial inoculants for agricultural use.

Element graphique For a fuller description of this project click here for PDF (135Kb)
For more information, email: Gerasimos Apostolatos at Research DG

Nitrogen fixation: Giving a boost to Brazilian bean crops

Soybean was introduced into Brazil over a hundred years ago and that country has now become the second largest producer in the world. French beans are also widely grown there, contributing about 28% of the protein eaten by the local population.

Brazilian soils did not originally contain the bacteria required for root nodule formation on these crops, so they had to be introduced in the form of inoculants prepared as seed coating agents.

Efforts to adapt rhizobial bacteria to Brazilian conditions began in the 1960s and the continuous selection of more efficient and competitive strains and of plants with higher nitrogen-fixing capacity is essential if high yields are to be maintained and increased.

The European Commission has funded a research project – ‘Exploiting the biodiversity of rhizobia for the sustainable improvement of common bean crops in South America’ – that aims to do just that.

Element graphique For a fuller description of this project click here for PDF (135Kb)
For more information, email: Ferdinand Kaser at Research DG

Fisheries: Building and sharing knowledge to maintain marine ecosystems

FishesPeople have always relied on the sea as a supply of plentiful and healthy food. As world population grows and modern technology is harnessed to fish for massive catches, it is now possible to exhaust stocks. A project involving scientists from around the world has produced modelling analysis that shows the impact of fisheries on a variety of tropical ecosystems. The results can be used to inform management strategies for sustainable fisheries.

Researchers from 31 institutes in Africa, Europe, and the Americas came together to work on the EU-ACP Concerted Action project – ‘Placing fisheries resources in their ecosystem context: cooperation, comparison, and human impact’ – to learn how to use a computer modelling tool called Ecopath and to share in the information it provides.

Ecopath software has been around for more than a decade, and it has developed to become the de facto standard for ecosystem modelling of marine systems. Up to now, work mainly centred on marine ecosystems in temperate areas as well as in South East Asia. Its use in Latin America and Africa through this research project represents a major step forward for the introduction of an ecosystem approach to fisheries.

Element graphique For a fuller description of this project click here for PDF (135Kb)
For more information, email: Cornelia Nauen at Research DG

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