DIVERSify (Designing InnoVative plant teams for Ecosystem Resilience and Agricultural Sustainability) is a four-year project (2017-2021) funded by the European Union Horizon-2020 program and designed with the aim of optimizing the performance of polycultures of cereals and legumes of grain fundamentally.
It is suggested that some of these mixtures can generate synergies, compose ‘plant teams’ that improve the stability of yields and resistance to abiotic stress and reduce the damage caused by pests and diseases in farming systems.
Increases in crop yields achieved after 1950, through agricultural inputs, better management and improved crops, have begun to stabilize. Given that by 2050 an increase of up to 60% in agricultural production will be required to feed the growing global human population, there is a growing incentive to produce food sustainably with fewer inputs.
In this context, it is necessary to design new cropping systems for farmers to increase efficiency and reduce pollution; provide new awareness and tools in order to develop new suitable varieties, and provide specifications for the agronomists to manage these farming systems.
DIVERSify focuses on improving the productivity and sustainability of European agriculture through an approach of global relevance, learning from the experience of researchers and stakeholders.
The project will use principles of ecology to understand the features and mechanisms of the plant that promote productivity in the systems of cereals and legumes in a wide range of environments and climatic conditions. In this sense, increasing the diversity of cropping systems offers a possible way to improve and stabilize crop yields.
DIVERSify project gathers European and international research centers of excellence, farmers, extension services, breeders and small businesses. It also intends to:
- Improve understanding of how to contribute to stability in performance, reduce yield losses and increase the capacity to recover from environmental and biotic stress.
- Identify important crop and variety features and work with professionals in different geographical regions to promote crop improvement and management practices.
- Produce tools for farmers to support the implementation of improvement systems by carrying out participatory research on farms with innovative farmers to validate possible ‘plant teams’.
- Develop agronomic specifications for ‘plant teams’, including adaptations of agricultural equipment.
- Design an aid for decision making through a web adapted also for smartphones, so that professionals can choose the best option according to the different regions and types of farms.
- Promote the future adoption of ‘plant teams’ that have been successful through knowledge and knowledge exchange.
DIVERSify will work with stakeholders in the agricultural systems of Europe, Africa and the Middle East to identify existing knowledge, innovations and best practices for ‘plant teams’.
The project is coordinated by the James Hutton Institute (JHI) from United Kingdom, a consortium of 23 international partners and the European Union, including CEIGRAM – Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) and other research institutes, universities, commercial organizations and non-profit organizations.