CORDIS - EU research results

Management improvements of WUE and NUE of Mediterranean strtegic crops (Wheat and Barley)

Final Report Summary - WATNITMED (Management improvements of WUE and NUE of Mediterranean strategic crops (Wheat and Barley))

Wheat and barley are two strategic crops for farmers across the entire Mediterranean region. The principal objective of the WATNITMED project was to identify and transfer improvements in managing these crops through increasing either the capture or the use efficiency of the most limiting factors that determined their productivity. Therefore, the project focussed on water and nitrogen (N).

Increasing the potential to capture and effectively utilise limited resources was identified as being of utmost importance, since it not only increased the effectiveness of the farms but it also facilitated any likely genetic improvement of the desired crop attributes. Hence, breeding projects could depend upon parallel advances in management practices. Opportunities for management improvements were identified and analysed and proposals for actual farming management improvements were formulated. Several outreach activities were undertaken to reinforce the impact of these alternatives among stakeholders.

WATNITMED was based on the premise that understanding the physiological response to water and N shortages would allow for the design of most consistent management schemes in order to overcome any explored deficiencies. The obtained results could be exploited either directly, i.e. in the field, or through the development of robust simulation models to test different alternative interactions. Therefore, the project identified how the crops' ability to capture and utilise water changed under varying N conditions. Similarly, the crops' capacity to capture and utilise N was analysed in a range of water availability conditions.

The analyses were performed as part of distinct, yet interrelated, work packages (WPs) which undertook the following activities:
1. characterised and evaluated the variance of both water and N as crop limiting factors in the Mediterranean basin;
2. determined the principal plant and crop characteristics of root capture, leaf photosynthesis and grain number that could influence the ability to cope with depleting resources;
3. adapted an existing crop simulation model to the derived information, in order to provide a mechanistic basis for the design of innovative management strategies;
4. evaluated alternative management schemes in terms of their potential to improve capture and efficient use of the two compounds;
5. analysed hypothetic agronomic management strategies to improve the performance of cereals' cultivation in the Mediterranean environment and evaluated the socioeconomic impact of the proposals via a pilot study in Tunisia.

In addition, a series of dissemination activities were undertaken. A website, including all significant information, was developed and regularly updated. The support of numerous PhD theses resulted in the familiarisation of young researchers with the project concept. Several internal meeting and workshops were held, while a series of publications and presentations allowed for the communication of the results to a wider scientific audience. Finally, targeted events were organised to ensure the direct transfer of knowledge to the involved farmers.