Proposed work will help to identify crop characteristics and "sustainability criteria" that are associated with the capacity of new varieties to yield under more variable conditions and under more sustainable crop management practices (e.g. with regard to the use of fertiliser, water or plant protection products). Work will serve to develop methods and tools to integrate sustainability criteria in the testing and evaluation of new varieties taking into account a range of agro-ecological environments, soil types and on-farm conditions. Furthermore, work will advance the development of field based phenotyping tools and protocols to increase robustness of testing methods and allow better prediction of Gene x Environment interactions.
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.
Agriculture is facing major challenges such as the need to improve resource use efficiency, reduce dependency on external inputs and cope with more variable climatic conditions. The farming sector is increasingly expected to produce “more with less” and to move towards more sustainable practices. Breeders need to consider more systematically characteristics that respond to these demands and contribute to crop resilience, particularly to increasing biotic and abiotic stresses. Similarly, criteria and methods for testing the value of cultivation of new varieties need to further evolve to capture better the performance of new varieties in conditions associated with sustainable and more variable farming practices.
Activities will support the introduction of new varieties that are “fit for purpose” as regards meeting demands for high(er) yields but also to show greater robustness and adaptability to changing conditions, in particular varying levels of biotic and abiotic stresses (including decreasing levels of external inputs). This will benefit the introduction of plant properties that respond to new challenges and demands while also taking into account growers' economic returns. More specifically, activities will contribute to
- a better understanding of crop-specific characteristics underpinning efficiency, tolerance and resilience to more challenging climatic and production environments
- the development of experimental designs, methodologies and tools to improve capture and prediction of the sustainability profile of new varieties
- improving information and recommendations on variety performance available to growers
- the use of better adapted and more adaptable varieties
In the longer term, the availability and use of more robust and "sustainability-proof" varieties are expected to support changes in agricultural practices, i.e. enable the farming sector to remain productive while using resources and external inputs more efficiently. Results will also boost innovation in the breeding sector through the delivery of new varieties with clearly demonstrable advantages.