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Translating knowledge for legume-based farming for feed and food systems.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Legumes Translated (Translating knowledge for legume-based farming for feed and food systems.)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-04-30

The issue addressed:

As a Horizon 2020 thematic network, the Agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP Agri), the overall aim of Legumes Translated is to increase the production and use of grain legume crops in Europe. 86% of the EU’s plant protein deficit is met using imported soya (the equivalent of about 36 million tonnes soybeans per annum). This is a fundamental challenge to the resilience, acceptance and performance of our agri-food systems. The project brings developers of grain legume crops (protein crops) and related value chains together in an EU Framework Programme thematic network. It is ground-breaking in several respects: there is emphasis on East-West development interaction; it makes a substantial investment in the development of soybean production in Europe; and Legumes Translated is about developing cropping systems and value chains together.

Importance for society:

European agriculture is remarkably productive but the combination of intensive nitrogen fertiliser use and large plant protein imports has profound implications for the N cycle and Europe’s reliance on external land resources. The low production of legumes (even though they grow well in Europe) means that Europe forfeits the diverse range of ecosystem services that they provide. The area of the major grain legume crops in the EU increased from about 1.6 million ha in 2014 (1.5% of the arable area, accounted for mostly by soy, pea and faba bean in that order) to 2.7 million ha in 2015 (estimated from EUROSTAT data). A four-fold increase to 6% of the arable area (which is an agronomically reasonable target) would reduce the deficit in high protein commodities from about 70% to about 50%, which is the target suggested by the EIP Agri Protein Crops Focus Group report making a significant contribution to a Protein Transition.
The formation of the consortium coincided with the European Commission’s work on a plan for the “development of plant proteins in the European Union. The EC Plan had two important messages for Legumes Translated. First, Legumes Translated was uniquely mentioned as starting to collect existing knowledge. Second, the Plan’s five options for policy action included “Increase sharing of knowledge/best practice in supply chain management and sustainable agronomic practices and bundle information on research activities in breeding, technical innovation and processing, e.g. on a dedicated knowledge platform.” Our overall goal is to increase sharing of knowledge/best practice in supply chain management and sustainable agronomic practices through networking and through a dedicated knowledge platform (The Legume Hub).

The EC’s Protein Plan has developed into a more radical policy ambition in Brussels and elsewhere that strongly reinforces the purpose of the project. The Amazon fires in 2019 led to calls for a comprehensive protein stategy (e.g. calls from President Macron). Crop diversification also remains high on the policy agenda due to increasing concern about declines in farmland biodiversity. Drought has challenged cropping systems and there is a greater interest in system resilence. Introducing legumes is a particularly effective way of diversifying cropping sequences. On the consumer side, there has been a surge in interest switching from animal to plant-based protein. Concepts such as the Donau Soja Protein Partnerships open up opportunities for linking consumers with innovation on farms. Lastly, the Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy will, if translated into tangible policy actions, greatly support the range of changes that Legumes Translated seeks to support.

What are the overall objectives?

Legumes Translated is a thematic network; it is not a research project. The goal is to stimulate innovation by networking existing initiatives (being supported by regional and national programmes, or privately) in which our actor groups are already involved. The objectives are:

1. To expertly exchange and synthesise actor groups’ existing information and to adapt this for use in other contexts.

2. To validate the wider economic effects and relevance of innovation based on actor groups knowledge.

3. To validate the environmental effects of innovations to ensure that project outputs support a wide range of ecosystem services.

4. To compile knowledge at farming system and value chain level within sector-oriented sub-networks (Transition networks).

5. To provide access to the consortium’s knowledge resources by building an internet-based knowledge platform to support the EIP Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP Agri).

6. To improve alliances, cooperation and innovative activities for improved farming systems and value chains by integrating knowledge from different actors along value chains in transition networks.

7. To contribute to the knowledge of the policy community by assessing the relevance of actor groups’ knowledge and translating it for policy development.
Work performed:

The consortium has:

1. Established the seven themed transition networks which are now each working effectively driving the publication plan forward to produce a total of 73 practice notes, 30 videos, and 15 practice guides.

2. Established a systematic collection of data from a wide range of actor groups for economic and environmental assessment

3. Established a programme of work based on the bottom-up assessment of actors’ views with four focal areas. These are Cropping system performance; Evaluation of grain legumes for feed; Soy technology; and Corporate social responsibility.

4. Established Legumes Translated as a publishing platform.

5. Fostered a high-quality ethos for publications that supports understanding and choice rather than ‘instruction’.

6. Completed plans for the establishment of the Legume Hub; and completed 1 practice note (as a pilot); drafted 13 further practice notes; initiated a further 8 practice notes; planned a further 51 practice notes; completed 8 videos; planned a further 22 videos; made 21 presentations; delivered 127 photographs into a photo repository; produced 26 written publications; and organised or contributed to 23 events
Progress beyond the state of the art:

The project advances the state of the art by focusing the network on tangible communication outputs within a coherent communication and knowledge interaction framework. The project’s empowering ethos focuses on key actors’ decisions and questions instead of ‘advice’ or ‘instruction’. The whole project is aimed at dissemination and communication. We have established an effective suite of mutually supporting communication channels provided by Legumes Translated as a neutral publishing platform that serves both to raise the profile of the project and support dissemination of results to key users. The role of the transition networks working together in the Innovation Group will increase and drive the dissemination effort. If executed, this plan will result in about 73 practice notes, 30 videos, and 15 practice guides. This requires a very substantial concerted and well-organised effort using the tools and procedures already developed. The major goal is the development of a knowledge platform (The Legume Hub) which will support long-term impact.