SIRAM will provide a comprehensive integration and implementation of sustainable solutions for regenerative agriculture across different Mediterranean areas, addressing at the same time issues of low incomes at smallholder farm level. A multidisciplinary team involving agronomists, microbiologists, soil scientists, plant pathologists, nematologists, agricultural chemists, economists and experts in dissemination will tackle from different perspectives issues related to soil degradation, over-use of chemical inputs, climate change, desertification, environmental risks and low-incomes at smallholder farms level. SIRAM will help to cope with the main challenges that the agricultural sector is facing in the 21st century: i) securing viable food production in the face of escalating food demands (expected to double by 2050); ii) ensuring sustainable management of natural resources and climate action to avoid the progressive deterioration of soil and water resources and the loss of biodiversity; iii) decreasing residue concentrations in vegetables and iv) contributing to a balanced territorial development of the EU’s rural areas and their communities. These issues will be tackled by a multidisciplinary approach based on four main pillars: (i) beneficial microorganisms for plant growth and pest control ; (ii) crop varieties with resistance towards abiotic and biotic stresses; (iii) agronomical practices to safeguard soil quality and fertility; and (iv) bioeconomy approaches to recycle and valorize waste biomasses that restore soil organic matter and have biostimulant properties.
SIRAM will address in details the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) 2.1 (Adaptation of agriculture to climate change) and 2.2 (Developing sustainable and productive agro-ecosystems). Concerning the adaptation of agriculture to climate change (SRIA 2.1), SIRAM will: (i) implement agronomical practices (no-till, cover-crops and use of humified organic matter) that are known to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ; (ii) diversify cropping systems by selecting and applying local varieties with a higher resistance towards pests and a better adaptation to changes in water availability and temperatures; (iii) adopt new bio-based products (microbial plant-growth promoters and chemical biostimulants) that increase the capacities of crops to withstand drought and other abiotic stresses related to climate change Concerning the development of sustainable and productive agro-ecosystems (SRIA 2.2), SIRAM will: (i) contribute to zero-pollution and optimize input use with an integrated approach based on resistant crop varieties and microbial strains inducing systemic resistance to pests and increasing nutrients availabilities, thus reducing the needs for chemical fertilizers and plant protection products (ii) combat loss of fertility, runoff and desertification through the use of organic biomasses and the inclusion of cover crops, with the aim of stabilizing soil organic matter and increasing its content (iii) develop and tailor local solutions to be tested in 8 case studies that represent different local scenarios for the Mediterranean area
The broad objective of SIRAM is to develop smart, sustainable, and resilient agricultural systems and economies, which are in agreement with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and EU Green Deal towards 2030 and beyond. The wider objective of SIRAM will be enriched by main specific objectives (SO): SO1 Development of tailored approaches to address climate change, desertification, pollution and low- income issues under different smallholder framing system in the Mediterranean area SO2 Reduction of chemical inputs, restoration and regeneration of soil health trough an integrated approach based on beneficial microorganisms, organic fertilizers, biostimulants, organic waste biomasses, resistant local crops and agronomical practices including no-tillage and cover crops SO3 Improvement of structural and functional biodiversity of bacteria, fungi and plants under the principles of regenerative agriculture SO4 Understanding of the mechanisms through which certain microorganisms induce plant systematic resistances to biotic and abiotic stress SO5 Understanding and exploitation of mechanisms through which plants can select beneficial microorganisms in the rhizosphere SO6 Investigating the use of non-microbial biostimulants from biomasses as a sustainable tool to improve agricultural production in the framework of regenerative agriculture SO7 Socio-economic evaluation and economic sustainability of the tested methodologies SO8 Dissemination and exploitation of the tested methodologies including upscaling to EU level, taking into account possible technical, socio-economic, and political barriers. SO9 Improvement in knowledge, skills and competences of young scientists, professionals, and other interested parties through a dedicated training programme.
The results of the SIRAM activities will bring benefits to NGOs, producer associations and farmers networks from the various Mediterranean countries. The address will be the restoration and enhancement of agro- and functional diversity. Such new practices will improve the sustainability and resilience of the farming systems as a support to plant growth and resilience/tolerance to pests. SIRAM will help to fill some gaps of knowledge on the mechanisms by which biostimulants explicate their inhibitory effects on pathogen/parasite growth. Outcomes will be useful to improve plant response to stresses (biotic and abiotic), and to develop high quality and efficient pilot products that can be available for a scale production and delivery on the market.by spin offs and SMEs. SIRAM will work in contact to industrial partners to translate the obtained research findings into practice. Tools will be given to farmers by partners companies operating in biological control and other producers of inputs that will have contributed to their development for integrated control management strategies in market garden crops. The project will be an asset for training program for young scientists/Training session on biological control of soil- borne pathogens including telluric fungi, bacteria and nematodes, on molecular tools to study plant micro-biome interaction (development of markers, genes expression, and bioinformatics)/BCASs yearly Meetings/ International symposia. Scientific publications from SIRAM team will have an impact on the general knowledge on regenerative agriculture, soil quality, biocontrol of pests and plant immune system.
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