Plants are increasingly traded across borders. But they don’t travel alone – tiny pests can travel with them, some of these are damaging for local crops and other plants. An EU-funded project has made it easier for plant protection agencies to identify pests, stop them spreading and support safer trade.
Climate change is affecting plant life worldwide, with potentially disastrous effects for both wild and agricultural species. EU-funded researchers are studying the impact of higher temperatures and drought on seed quality in order to develop techniques for conserving wild plants, and for ensuring sustainable crop yields.
EU-funded researchers are extracting small pieces of protein from rice starch by-products for ‘superfoods’ and new cosmetics. These ‘magic’ molecules could add a healthy twist to baby food, sports protein supplements and products for sufferers of coeliac disease. An engineered human skin eliminating any need for animal testing could also be on the market within two years.
The nutritional value of staple foods in Africa is being boosted to raise consumption of essential micronutrients. Kenya has made iron fortification mandatory in commercially produced flour, while Nigeria’s farmers are being encouraged to grow high-vitamin-A cassava strains. Both moves result from the EU-funded INSTAPA project, which continues to inform efforts to step up public nutrition through improving foods.
Ripe, but not too ripe; sweet, but still a bit tart — to make outstanding wine, grapes must be harvested when they are at their best. Choosing the right moment is one of the key decisions of the winemaking process. The WinePen, a low-cost handheld device developed by the EU-funded PREMIVM project, can help. It is based on innovative techniques that can give winegrowers the information they need much faster than conventional tools.
Farming consumes around 70% of the world’s fresh water. Limiting irrigation to the actual water crops need – and no more – makes farming more sustainable and improves yields. An EU-funded project is developing a user-friendly precision irrigation decision support system for more accessible technology that saves water. A first interface will be available next year.
Most of the food produced in Africa is supplied by small-scale farmers, many of whom are struggling. New knowledge could help to boost these micro-operations and their contribution to food security, but smallholders are rarely consulted when research agendas are set. An EU-funded project focused on stimulating the necessary dialogue.
To stop the Mediterranean region turning into a desert, the EU-funded MENFRI project is establishing forest management strategies and solutions that address environmental concerns across the Mediterranean and create jobs. These include forest management training, support for women’s associations in North Africa to commercialise forest-based products, certification of sustainably sourced goods in the Mediterranean and promotion of rural tourism.
Where water is scarce, it makes sense to make the most of what you receive for free. An EU-funded project is studying the different ways Africa’s farmers can increase the volume of rain and river water collected, to improve crop yields and bridge dry spells.
Sustainable rural development can only be accomplished by empowering local people to participate in the development of new techniques themselves. In understanding the importance of irrigation for smallholder farmers, the EU-funded EAU4FOOD project has integrated locals within the innovation process.