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Transition paths to sustainable legume based systems in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TRUE (Transition paths to sustainable legume based systems in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

Agriculture accounts for 25% of total (global) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The production of animals for meat and the application of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser are the largest contributors to agriculture’s GHGs budget. Fortunately, legume crops such as beans and clover, are a sustainable source of highly nutritious food and feed and may also be used as a natural nitrogen fertiliser, thanks to their capacity for “biological nitrogen fixation”, that converts atmospheric nitrogen (N2) to biologically useful nitrogen. Thus, legumes do not require the application of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Legumes can also help enable nutrition security by countering undernutrition and unbalanced nutrition, which impose financial health-care cost burden, through the effective implementation of sustainable legume-based diets. Ironically, there are very high levels of legume grains use throughout Europe, but the majority (70 %) of the EUs protein (legume) demand is imported and mainly as soybean for use as animal feed, and often GM sourced from ex-rainforest regions. Thus, the reality is that legumes occupy only a very small percentage of European farmed land, and in the region of 1 to 4% depending on the country. Therefore, more diverse agri-food systems supported by home-grown legumes are required to help safeguard nutritional security and environmentally wellbeing. This transition demands greater cooperation among all agri-food system actors.

The EU-H2020 funded project TRUE (TRansition paths to sUstainable legume-based systems in Europe) was designed from the perspective that the scientific knowledge and societal desire for more-sustainable legume-supported agri-food systems does exist, but that co-innovation among supply chain actors to identify, realise and prioritise transition paths remains to be achieved. TRUE is therefore aimed at working with the full-range of stakeholders across the supply chain, including civil society bodies, to identify and enable routes (transition paths) to help realise more-sustainable legume-supported agri-food systems. TRUE comprises an equal balance of 24 academic and non-academic partners, who span the agri-food system to deliver a diverse suite of research- and innovation-strategies in parallel and in a transdisciplinary context.
Work Package (WP)1: Knowledge Exchange and Communication, boasts a dynamic website highlighting all public project outputs including Deliverables, blogposts, newsletters, reports and resources from all the multi-actor Legume Innovation Network (LIN) workshops, peer-reviewed Open Access publications and Practice Abstracts. There is also extensive dissemination through a wide variety of trade, science, and social media outlets. WP2: Case Studies, of which there are 24, covers a diverse range of novel and innovative approaches that aims to catalyse increased legume uptake across food and feed value networks. Case Study methods, plus datasets and associated metadata continue to be stored in the TRUE data repository. A systematic review has also been progressed assessing agronomic practices which aim to increase yield in common bean as a model pulse for food production. WP3: Nutrition and Product Development, has carried out: extensive screening of novel material which has emerged from the case studies; developed several novel products; and scoped the licencing of methods, products. WP4: Markets and Consumers, have made specific recommendations aimed to impact food and feed markets. WP5: Environment, has received data from case studies to empower high-level consequential LCA and LCA-of-diet approaches. WP6: Economics, has studied the economic performance of legumes, the motivations and capacities which encourage farmers to cultivate legumes, and consumers to purchase them. WP7: Policy and Governance, has built on LIN outputs, stakeholder interviews to develop a Delphi exercise to identify specific policy recommendations. WP8: Transition Pathways, first Deliverable reports on its novel Decision Support System (DSS) has designed an integrated decision-based system to assess the sustainability of legume systems by developing decision models for the three sustainability pillars (environment, economy, social/policy) for each link in the agri-food chain.
TRUE has embodied the multi-actor and Open Science approach to identify and overcome some of the barriers to legume-uptake. TRUE has generated many Open Access reports released freely via Open Access repositories including Zenodo, ResearchGate, the project website, and allied to advertising their availability on social media. The TRUE website had over 11,000 visitors from 25 countries over this 2nd reporting period. TRUE has released 25 publicly available Deliverables and 13 peer-reviewed manuscripts to date. The consortium has carried out many impactful activities, which highlights are: the release of the world’s first ‘climate positive gin’ made from peas; a gluten free vegan faba bean beer; and launch of the project’s own Registered Trademark ‘coolbeans®’. Such success, and the methods developed, serves as blueprints for the biorefining pulses was facilitated by the consequential-LCA approach. The success was extended by the Deliverables reporting on market opportunities and food- and feed-product developments, including a series of award-winning legume-based foodstuffs. LCA emerges as a powerful tool to market more sustainable and ethical products and has been developed to help implement new policies too. For example, TRUEs LCA-of-diet approach was used in a comparative analysis of the ‘Irish Diet’ and the EAT-Lancet’s ‘global healthy diet’. Policy remains an effective vehicle for rapid transition, and TRUEs findings point towards a greater need for co-designed and mixed-policy approaches. The specific policy recommendations will feature four ‘policy briefings’ each targeted to different value network sector. The Briefs will be the subjects of a ‘Policy Dialogue’ event to be held in Brussels (2021), alongside launch of a legacy European-LIN. Drawing upon this breadth of expertise engaged a hitherto unknown DSS has been developed that incorporates functional indicators for all three ‘pillars of sustainability’ (environment, society and economics), and five value network sectors (from production to consumption). The 15 models developed can operate separately or collectively and the DSS models are now being validated using live commercial case studies. It will eventually be launched with a user-friendly format and disseminated via teaching-workshops in several countries.