The Agroecology-Transect research project, co-funded under the Horizon Europe programme, launches a web portal to promote agroecology and large-scale ecological transition in the agri-food systems of the Old Continent. (1)
Agroecology - the subject of specific recommendations by the FAO (2) - is indeed recognized as an optimal approach to guarantee food security, nutrition security and social equity. And at the same time protect ecosystems and biodiversity. (3)
1) Agroecology, the ABC
The concept of agroecology it is broad as it includes a series of agronomic practices aimed at eliminating the use of toxic chemical substances and improving the resilience of production, also with respect to climate change. Agroecology-Transect has adopted the definitions and principles of agroecology already consolidated internationally in recent decades:
A) FAO. The decalogue of agroecology, which combines
– diversity, synergies, efficiency, resilience, recycling, co-creation and knowledge sharing, with
– human and social values, culture and food traditions, to achieve
– circular and solidarity economy, governance and responsibility, (2)
B) Agroecology Europe. The 13 principles of agroecology integrate
– recycling, input reduction, soil health, animal health, biodiversity and synergy, with
– economic diversification, knowledge sharing, social values, diets, e.g
– solidarity, participation, connection and governance of the territory and natural resources, (4)
C) Stephen R. Gliessman. The 5 levels of adherence to the agroecology criteria (5,6).
2) Agroecology-TRANSECT, the European research project
Agroecology-Transect (Trans-disciplinary approaches for Ssystemic economic, Eecological and Cfile change Transitions) is a research consortium established with the aim of realizing the potential of agroecology on the European continent. To this end:
– the members of the consortium have built a network that collects the local practices and experiences of agricultural companies and research institutions in 11 Innovation Hubs, located in 10 European countries, with a view to their large-scale application and replication,
– the experiences of the agricultural companies involved will allow the development of useful data and knowledge to encourage the development of sustainable and resilient European agriculture, in line with the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy (7,8,9).
'Agroecology-Transect is a unique partnership that will allow us to rapidly build evidence of how the large-scale adoption of agroecological farming practices will enable farmers to play a leading role in mitigating climate change, improving soil health, restoring biodiversity and increasing the profitability of agricultural companies' (Bertrand Dumont, project coordinator).
3) Project structure
The project involves 19 research partners, coordinated by the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food and Livestock (INRAE). The partners are engaged in 11 innovation hubs divided into 5 systems:
– agriculture and livestock farming,
– annual crops,
– herbivore production systems,
– perennial cultivation systems,
– local food systems.
Every hub, characterized by a different geographical and social context, experiments with different agroecological practices in real-life contexts over the course of four years. In this way, evidence and data will be collected useful for identifying the opportunities of agroecology and the barriers that hinder its full development.
The countries involved are:
– Spain, Guadeloupe and Hungary, engaged in the area of 'diversification for resilience – a range of agricultural production systems',
– Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands for 'sustainable weed management: preserving soil quality through reduced tillage and sustainable weed management', and
– Romania, France, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Switzerland in the sector of 'certification and branding of values – for plant and livestock production'.
4) First results
The Austrian hub, led by Andreas Lüscher, has already demonstrated how the sowing of different forage varieties, in serious or moderate drought conditions, brings equal and higher yields compared to sowing single varieties. (10)
In Guadeloupe Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is instead being tested to improve food self-sufficiency and the resilience of agriculture to the climate emergency which manifests itself in long periods of drought alternating with intense rainfall (11,12).
'We're building the evidence to support a transition to agroecological farming practices in the EU and beyond' (Soil Association)
Dario Dongo and Alessandra Mei
Cover image from Wageningen University, Agroecology & Technology Fieldlab. https://tinyurl.com/3jvmj58k
(1) Agroecology-Transect. Agroecology-Transect launches new website to share ground-breaking research into nature friendly agriculture. 8.9.23 https://www.agroecology-transect.net/news/agroecology-transect-launches-new-website-to-share-ground-breaking-research-into-nature-friendly-farming/
(2) Dario Dongo, Camilla Fincardi. Agroecology, SDGs, salvation. The FAO Decalogue. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(3) Dario Dongo, Sabrina Bergamini. 10 years of agroecology to save Europe, the IDDRI study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(4) Agroecology-Europe. The 13 principles of agroecology. https://www.agroecology-europe.org/the-13-principles-of-agroecology/
(5) Agroecology Info Pool. ACT: Agroecology criteria tool. https://www.agroecology-pool.org/methodology/
(6) Stephen R. Gliessman. CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group. 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4987-2846-1 (eBook)
(7) Dario Dongo. European Green Deal, the new strategy in the EU. Egalité. 13.12.19
(8) Dario Dongo, Marina De Nobili. Special Farm to Fork, the strategy presented in Brussels on 20.5.20. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(9) Dario Dongo. Farm to Fork, resolution in Strasbourg. Focus on pesticides and fertilizers. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(10) Agroecology-Europe. Plant diversity can mitigate adverse drought impacts on grasslands. 24.5.23 https://www.agroecology-transect.net/news/plant-diversity-can-mitigate-adverse-drought-impacts-on-grasslands/
(11) The KaruSmart micro-farm has already developed a prototype farm capable of mitigating the impacts of climate change, reducing greenhouse gases and increasing food self-sufficiency
(12) Agroecology-Europe. A transition to climate-smart to agriculture in Guadeloupe. 16.15.23 https://www.agroecology-transect.net/news/a-transition-to-climate-smart-agriculture-in-guadeloupe/