Activities will help to unravel the mechanisms underlying beneficial plant interactions in cropping systems and lead to a better understanding of the dynamics between plants and their biotic and abiotic environments. Proposals will turn this knowledge into practical applications for breeding and crop management taking into account the corresponding changes in agronomic and breeding practices. Activities should fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach'[See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this Work Programme part.] and ensure that appropriate account is taken of scientific, farming, agronomic and breeding expertise throughout the work with due attention to participatory and demonstration activities: All types of crop production and farming systems (e.g. arable farming, horticulture, grassland, fruit trees, agro-forestry), and diverse pedo-climatic conditions in Europe can be covered. Work proposed shall benefit both conventional and organic agriculture. International cooperation is encouraged wherever it adds value to achieving the objectives of the proposed work.
Selected projects will liaise closely with complementary activities funded under topic RUR-6 on crop diversification systems in the Rural Renaissance call.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Diversity is recognised as a key factor element for adaptation of crops to more variable environments (including climate and management). In this context increasing attention is being paid to associations/mixtures of species and to their potential for stabilising yields and reducing losses caused by weeds, plant diseases and abiotic stresses. For example, crop mixtures have shown good potential for managing disease and insect outbreaks or controlling weeds. Associations of annual and perennial crops have shown particular resilience against abiotic stresses such as drought. There is a need for a better understanding of synergistic plant/crop interactions and how these can be used more systematically in breeding and management.
Activities will support the adoption of productive and resilient agricultural systems which capitalise on the benefits of high plant species diversity. This overall goal will be achieved by
- scientifically supported and field tested evidence on the mechanisms underpinning beneficial crop associations and their effects on crop performance and product quality;
- increasing farmers' and breeders' knowledge of potential benefits of 'plant teams' (e.g. with regard to resource facilitation, pest and disease restriction/control);
- promoting diversity-rich crop management practices;
- increasing the availability of plant varieties suited for inclusion in crop associations and mixtures including traditional varieties.
In the longer term, results will support yield stability and diversification in the primary sector, increase resilience against environmental fluctuations and support healthier diets. They may also enhance ecosystem services associated with increased agro-biodiversity.