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Shared Innovation Space for Sustainable Productivity of Grasslands in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Inno4Grass (Shared Innovation Space for Sustainable Productivity of Grasslands in Europe)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2018-07-01 al 2019-12-31

Grasslands are important for agriculture. Permanent and temporary grasslands cover 61 million ha across the EU-28 representing 16% of the total land area and 40% of the European agricultural area. These EU grasslands serve multifunctional purposes ranging from provision of autochthonous fodder for animal husbandry (and hence food provision for citizens) to biodiversity, to the provision of traditional originated landscapes that European citizens appreciate for recreational purposes. Almost all acreage of grasslands in Europe is exclusively used as animal feed. Ruminant production is a major component of European agriculture at several levels. The production of dairy, beef and sheep is of major economic importance to many member states and the number of farms and farming families involved in ruminant production is large; about 4.5 million holdings hold grazing livestock in the EU-28
in 2013 (Eurostat). The large acreage of grasslands and the many environmental benefits (e.g. biodiversity, mitigation of climate change) that grasslands can provide are important reasons for requiring innovations in grasslands. This multi-functionality of grasslands often is not seen as advantageous by EU farmers; in fact, this multi-functionality is completely understated and not fully understood. In a time where market-driven concepts for ecosystem services rewards are not or not sufficiently developed or understood, the multi-functionality of grasslands often causes competitive claims. EU-grasslands are becoming more and more areas of conflicts between food demand and provision of other ecosystem services. Many EU farmers and farmers’ associations are struggling to seek solutions on how to increase the contribution of grasslands in terms of economic added value and at the same time stimulate rural development, ecological benefits and societal requirements such as healthy food production. Furthermore, grassland-based farming was in the last decades not seen as just as economically viable as many other sectors (e.g. arable production) in many European grassland areas, leading to a decrease in the total grassland area. This was associated to a restrained adoption of innovations in grasslands. Several reasons explain the low adoption of innovations in grasslands: i) grassland-based production systems are complex and therefore innovative systems must be implemented as a combination of innovative practices that show a dependency to local conditions, ii) benefits from innovation on grasslands are perceived with some time lag, iii) grassland innovation affects the various aspects of sustainability (profitability, environment, social acceptance) and often in a contradictory manner and above all iv) limited interaction between practice and research.
The overall objective of Inno4Grass is to close the gap between practice and science and to ensure implementation of innovative systems on productive grasslands to achieve profitability of European grassland farms and to preserve environmental values.
One of the achievements is the collection of 170 farm portraits published in English and in most local languages, and of many quantitative data associated to these farms which are available on the project web site and on Encyclopedia Pratensis (https://www.encyclopediapratensis.eu/grassland-tools/) being part of the Information Management System of Inno4Grass. Each project partner interviewed a large range of other stakeholders for better understanding their view on grassland and grassland-based products. In total 145 discussion groups were conducted during the project term that brought together various actors from practice, science and other sectors of the national grassland AKIS. The existing innovation brokering systems in Europe have been inventoried and evaluated. A questionnaire among more than 1000 European grassland farmers provided insight in drivers and barriers for innovation. Practice & science meetings were held in the different countries analysing important innovations. Grassland tools that are used in the member states involved have been inventoried and ranked and are available for farmers in Europe to use. A grassland award for 8 lighthouse farmers has been conducted during an award celebration and has been broadly published by the press and media.
A project website was implemented (www.inno4grass.eu) that has been updated continuously. 16 Facilitator Agents have been identified and trained during the project term to act as brokers and moderators for socially creating knowledge in discussion groups. A broad experience exchange has taken place through face-2-face as well as through electronic discussion groups as well as through several bilateral meetings. Inno4Grass has produced a large set of hands-on training material. Another major and important outcome was the Syllabus and its according PowerPoint presentations (Del. 5.3). A synthesis of innovations was published through leaflets, videos, and databases within the Information Management System.
Farmers’ innovations in grassland-based production systems are now much better known and described in the project. Grassland-based farm data have been recorded and analysed on 85 innovative case study farms. These farm descriptions constitute a unique information source on innovations implemented by farmers in grassland systems covering a large geographical range of the I4G project. Some of these innovations were presented in videos and synthesized in leaflets (https://www.encyclopediapratensis.eu/) and the Inno4Grass web site (https://www.inno4grass.eu/en/). The range of hands-on material serves as long-term available best-practice examples for spreading the innovations. This will enable to tap innovations from innovators and to disseminate innovation to other farmers in Europe. This was achieved with innovative methodologies to capture the innovative farms and the innovative practices and to represent them in cognitive maps. This showed that innovative approaches were scattered from grassland (botanical composition, management), harvest and grazing, machineries, human relationships including advisory systems, down to animal product processing and selling. Inno4grass has delivered results of 145 practice & science meetings for spreading its output as practice abstracts throughout Europe. Another output, a demand-driven research agenda has been put at the disposal for the EC as well as national programs to impact on future research needs on grasslands and grassland-based farming systems. The use of grassland tools which is quite new to many MS has been stimulated by the inventory of available grassland management tools. The development of a visiting and exchange programme was a novelty and has been sustainably implemented for a range of the project partners exceeding the project term. The grassland syllabus contains cumulative and concentrated knowledge for young farmers and can be used for training and education in a broad context be it at vocational school- or university level. Beyond innovative practices and systems, the farmers who were active part of the thematic networks also identified the needs for setting resilient production systems, with a special concern to climate change impacts and to the volatility of milk and meat markets in most countries. Thus, they raised the need to put more emphasis of applied research and advisory systems for implementing resilient grassland-based production systems.
Practice and Science Meeting
Getting to know an innovation on grassland
General Partner Assembly Meeting
Introduction to the Information Management System