Climate change is inducing severe limitations to vegetable crops in the Mediterranean, due to severe, often concurrent (multiple) stresses, in particular drought, heat, and salinity. VEG-ADAPT gathers farmers, industry, and research form eight Mediterranean countries, with the shared scope of increasing the tolerance of three major vegetable crops (tomato, pepper, and melon) to stress induced by climate change in this area. To this aim, VEG-ADAPT will follow three parallel and integrated lines of research: characterization and selection of tolerant local varieties and new hybrids, discovery of physiological processes contributing to tolerance and of the underlying genetic patterns and markers, and optimization of cropping management techniques reducing susceptibility to climate change-induced stress. The selection process will provide accessions to serve for physiological and genetic studies and to be tested in the field; genetic and metabolic markers will help selecting genotypes; field experiments will test the performance upon stress of selected varieties, also used as rootstocks, of soil amendments, and of smart irrigation techniques. The socio-economic effect of the innovative agronomic tools and techniques developed within VEG-ADAPT will be assessed. Novel results will be disseminated and demonstrated to farmers and industry. Transfer of the results of VEG-ADAPT to other vegetable crops will be possible, due to biological, physiological, and agronomical similarities. VEG-ADAPT will impact Mediterranean farmers, by providing ready solutions for climate change-induced cropping limitations; the industry, by offering genotypes and genetic traits to be used in breeding programmes; scientists, by uncovering novel metabolic and molecular processes inducing tolerance of crops; and the society at large, by improving sustainability of vegetable crops. A multi-actor approach is embedded within VEG-ADAPT and will be supported by a dedicated Stakeholder platform.
The overall goal of VEG-ADAPT is to enhance tolerance of vegetable crops to multiple stresses induced by climate change in the Mediterranean area. To this aim, genetic and physiological traits providing tolerance to drought, heat, and salinity will be characterized, crop management systems less susceptible to climate-change induced stress will be optimized and, exploiting local genetic diversity as well as novel genotypes and hybrids, new tolerant genotypes will be profiled and developed. VEG-ADAPT takes as case studies three major Mediterranean vegetable crops, namely tomato, pepper, and melon, which will be characterized for adaptation to multiple stress and tested in the field under stress and with different management systems. Research will be focused on phenotype- and genotype-driven selection of tolerant genotypes, on discovery of hormone-controlled physiological processes, genetic traits and quantitative trait loci (QTLs) linked to tolerance, on optimization of soil amendments and effects of soil biota, and on development of tolerant rootstocks. Fruit quality, and resistance to pathogens and pests of the selected genotypes will be also taken into account. The project will deliver tangible outputs, such as new genotypes adaptable to climate change, and crop management practices suitable for local varieties. The uptake of these results will be enabled through demonstration in Mediterranean farms, and through engagement of farm advisors, public institutions and private companies.
Steady increase of CO2 concentration in the world atmosphere has been recorded since the 1980s and this goes hand-in-hand with major changes in climate, which are severely affecting Mediterranean agriculture, threatening food security and putting at risk the economic sustainability of both small family farms, and industrial farms. In the Mediterranean area, increased temperatures (both by day and by night) are being recorded, together with a general decrease and discontinuity in rainfall. Unexpectedly long dry periods are posing severe limits to non-irrigated crops and, in the case of irrigated vegetable crops, water resources may become insufficient to successfully grow commercial élite varieties. A further problem induced by climate change is increased risk of salt stress, caused by reduced irrigation and rainfall, or to the use of low-quality water. As a consequence, vegetable crops in the Mediterranean are exposed to climate change-induced, often concurrent, multiple stresses, in particular drought, heat, and salinity.
VEG-ADAPT is developed in response to concerned actors’ needs to enhance their capacities to develop, issue and implement appropriate crop management strategies, thus ensuring that Mediterranean agriculture remains productive. Policymakers request science-based advice and support for policy implementation. VEG-ADAPT will provide recommendations for policies and regulation concerning management of agricultural water (in the EU, within the implementation framework of Directive 2000/60/EC). Consumers and society demand safe, healthy, and sustainable water and food. VEG-ADAPT solutions for sustainability will contribute to securing vegetable production while reducing the environmental load, in particular on water availability and quality. Non-agricultural water users and society at large will benefit also of the lower water mark and environmental quality of plants grown following VEG-ADAPT guidelines. Organic, low-input and conventional farmers need practical solutions for increasing vegetable resilience to multiple stress induced by climate change, avoiding production losses and reducing resource inputs and production costs. They will have at their disposal new management practices and resilient genotypes/rootstocks . Extension services require continuous update on biological processes and derived techniques that can mitigate climate change effects in crops. They will obtain and discuss the novel knowledge and guidelines developed by the project. Companies, in particular SMEs, strive for innovation that can be turned into marketable technology and know-how. They will benefit from innovations developed by the project and made available in accordance with Open Data principles. Researchers, it is widely recognised that there is a paucity of plant scientists with respect to the gravity of the challenges agriculture is facing worldwide, due to climate change conditions and growing population. VEG-ADAPT will contribute to filling this gap through the technical training and International secondments offered to scientists/technicians/practitioners within and outside the Consortium. Additionally, its communication strategy specifically aims at raising the awareness in society about such challenges, and at recruiting the youngest to plant sciences. VEG-ADAPT is thus expected to build EU capacity both directly and indirectly.
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