Biodiversify aims to capitalize on the fact that biodiversity-based agriculture effectively provides ecosystem services in substitution for external inputs and is relevant to improving agroecosystem sustainability and resilience. While these principles are well known, in practice they are still little exploited, if at all, including in the Mediterranean. Instead, biodiversification may increase food security and the health of farmers and ecosystems in the Mediterranean region. Three production systems covering a large land-use area and a wide gradient of pedo-climatic conditions, farming systems, and socio-economic contexts are considered: 1) arable cereal-based cropping systems, 2) vineyards, and 3) olive-based systems. The project will consider conventional and traditional farming, as well as rainfed and irrigated systems located in six countries (Algeria, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Tunisia). Biodiversify will organize a network of eight case studies that will define the key questions to be addressed at the regional and farm levels for each farm case type. Solutions will be co-designed and co-evaluated through participatory workshops. The project will analyse a gradient of HSD solutions based on spatio-temporal species diversification using 1) reintroduction of legumes and other neglected species in rotations, 2) introduction of multi-service cover crops, 3) intercropping of cereal-legume mixtures for grain and forage, and 4) agroforestry for olive-based systems. Biodiversify will support wider use of species and germplasm/cultivars, including traditional populations from the Mediterranean basin. The project will use complementary approaches and methods including field experiments, knowledge synthesis, and modeling to design and assess current and HSD innovative farming systems under various scenarios. The project will produce a portfolio of scientific results and practical information for farmers and stakeholders, to foster the adoption of HSD farming systems. It will also communicate with the society to explain the benefits of developing a sustainable biodiversified agriculture to address current environmental and social challenges.
To address the challenges of production in the Mediterranean area, Biodiversify will favor species diversity over time (in rotation and during fallow periods) and space (intercropping and agroforestry) to enhance resource use efficiency (especially water and nutrients), increase resilience to abiotic stresses such as drought, and control of weeds, pests, and diseases without the systematic use of pesticides. The project will evaluate the effectiveness of high species and cultivars/landraces diversification (HSD) to improve the production of grains for human consumption (durum/bread wheat, chickpea, fava bean, lentil, etc.), and forage (grass/legume swards), both for on-farm self-consumption and market use. At the field, farm, and region scales, HSD will reduce the sensitivity of farming systems to climate change and will support food security at territorial and regional levels, as well as contribute to the alleviation of rural poverty. Recent European and FAO initiatives have promoted HSD as a sustainable means to intensify world agriculture in developed and developing countries (Griffon, 2006; de Schutter and Vanloqueren, 2011). Biodiversify goes beyond the proof of concept of agroecology proving more resilience for agroecosystems: it will quantify in situ, in a range of pedoclimatic and socio-economic conditions, the way in which HSD effectively increases multiple ecosystem services and reduces the need for external inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, and fossil energy). Biodiversify will therefore verify that solutions based on HSD increase the efficiency of natural abiotic resources (light, CO2, nutrients), water maintaining or increasing yield (crops and forages), and providing high levels of ecosystem services while protecting the integrity of ecosystems and farmers' health, by eliminating as much as possible the use of pesticides.
Biodiversify will achieve its main goal through the following specific objectives: 1. Understand how traditional biodiversified Mediterranean agricultural systems combine crop species and crop and tree biodiversity to frame sustainable and resilient agroecosystems. The analysis will result in a comprehensive description of performances and evaluation of ecosystem functions/services related to biodiversity. This understanding will allow the hybridization of farmers’ knowledge with recent scientific and technological advances and improve agricultural productivity and resilience of farming systems in the face of global changes. 2. Engage researchers, farmers, and other stakeholders in a co-evaluation and co-design process to develop biodiversity-based agrosystems and increase the benefit of the whole value chain to: • Generate knowledge on cultivated biodiversity and biological interactions ; • Co-design novel agrosystems based on diversified species, arrangements and practices ; • Devise new value chains, including new labels, e.g., for pesticide-free products. 3. Assess multi-criteria performance, sustainability, and resilience of biodiversity-based agrosystems under different environmental and socio-economical settings (intensification, farm type, agro-environmental zones, market access) by : • Evaluating yields and multiple ecosystem services within contrasting agrosystems ; • Modelling biotic interactions and the long-term control of pests and diseases ; • Assessing the impacts of agricultural practices on natural resources and biodiversity ; • Analysing the economic performance of existing and novel agrosystems with a focus on the constraints and the policy instruments for the implementation of biodiversification. 4. Develop specific activities of dissemination, extension, and education, oriented towards i) farmers and advisors (current and students), ii) policymakers, and iii) society for informing consumers and citizens on the inter-relationships between agricultural production and environment, biodiversity and human health (i.e. the impact of pesticide use).
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