Priorities for sustainable primary production

The first 3 priorities of the strategic approach to agricultural research and innovation are

  • encouraging efficient resource management;
  • making animals and plants healthier;
  • adopting ecological approaches from farm to landscape levels.

They deal with creating value from land through more sustainable primary production in agriculture and forestry.

Encouraging efficient resource management

This priority's major objective is to strike a proper balance between productivity and environmental goals in agriculture and forestry. The aim is to safeguard the long-term productivity of the sector and reduce its impact on ecosystems through an efficient resource use.

Specifically, research and innovation activities under this priority aim to:

  • support strategies for climate change adaptation and resilience and strengthen agriculture and forestry’s contribution to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • support resource efficiency and improve environmental performance of farming through digital and other technologies;
  • improve soil fertility and functions by optimising its biological, chemical and physical properties;
  • reduce water consumption and water pollution in the agricultural sector;
  • optimise urban and rural resources flows and encourage the use of residues and by-products in a circular economy;
  • preserve and make better use of genetic resources for plant and animal breeding.

The key contributing research areas across the various farming sectors are soils, water, nutrients and waste and genetic resources and breeding. Sector-specific activities presented under animal production systems and ecological approaches and organic farming also contribute to more efficient resource management.

Making animals and plants healthier

Resilient agriculture and forestry systems require robust plants and animals with increased resistance to pests and diseases.

Tackling numerous and highly dynamic biotic threats requires integrated approaches and the development of a wide range of tools for prevention, monitoring and control of pests and diseases along with risk management strategies.

This includes seeking alternatives to contentious plant protection products and antimicrobials. The EU promotes comprehensive measures to fight diseases, establishing links between health and other disciplines, to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

More specifically, research and innovation activities under this priority aim to:

  • tackle animal and plant health with a systems-based approach;
  • operationalise one-health approaches;
  • encourage disease prevention;
  • strengthen tools to control pests and diseases;
  • provide producers with alternative approaches to pesticide and antimicrobial use;
  • deal with emerging risks.

The key contributing research areas are animals and health, and plant health. Activities implemented under ecological approaches and organic farming can also make useful contributions to health.

Adopting ecological approaches from farm to landscape levels

This priority aims to better understand the potential of ecosystem services for primary production.

Research and innovation activities under this priority aim to:

  • encourage better use of ecosystem services to strengthen the sustainability and resilience of farming systems;
  • explore the functional role of biodiversity in the delivery of ecosystem services;
  • support organic and other systems, especially mixed farming systems and agroforestry;
  • researching from molecular to landscape levels.

It explores the functional role of biodiversity in the delivery of ecosystem services to increase resilience at farm and landscape level related to biotic and abiotic threats.

Research and innovation in this area are linked the first 2 priorities of the strategic approach and provide the knowledge base to develop, test and demonstrate specific farming systems such as organic and mixed farming systems or agroforestry.

It also allows for tackling the ecologically important interfaces between agriculture and forestry along with the related needs for management of multifunctional forests.

The key contributing research area is ecological approaches and organic farming.