Case study 22: Italy: Cereal-vegetable systems for food quality

Cluster 5: Diversification of vegetable cropping systems

In order to respond to concerns related to income diversification and consolidation, the case study idea originates from researchers who are in constant contact with farms in the Marche Region territory. Minor crops and their local and short value chains are a good opportunity, in particular to keep the added value at farm level. Crop diversification is seen as instrumental to this objective.

What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the case study?
The case study idea originates from researchers, who are in constant yet irregular contact with farms in the Marche Region territory in order to respond to concerns related to income diversification and consolidation. Minor crops and their local/short value chains are seen as a good opportunity, particularly to keep the added value at the farm level. Crop diversification is seen as instrumental to this objective. The idea was then shared with the ASR and farmers, who are, in some cases, proactive in establishing contacts to become involved in research activities.

How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
Researchers at the Consiglio per la Ricerca e l’Analisi dell’Economia Agraria CREA launched the idea and discussed it with ASR, who granted an interest in consideration of the promising dynamics on local value chains. A number of farms, which are already growing crops, are included in the case study design and will explore innovations embedded in the case study, such as strip cropping, which is currently neglected. This responds to the requests from farmers on smart innovations.
Various technical problems as seed purchase, mechanization (particularly in hilly parcels), strip mechanization, neighbors’ spraying drift, and cultural resistance to innovation are further issues.
The direct interaction with farmers, especially during open field days and contacts with various local realities with whom researchers have continuous contacts, offered the opportunity to get familiar with the innovative cropping system proposed by the case study.
Mostly, small and medium-scale farms (organic and non-organic), millers, bakers for bakery essays, pastry makers (using chickpea flour), and possibly, small seed companies will be involved for minor crops accompanied scientifically by CREA-ORA.

Solution investigated
Introducing intercropping and strip cropping is seen as an evolution of usual practices carried out in the region, not the least by organic farmers that represent the bulk of the co-innovators involved in the case study. Such innovative cropping systems should increase soil coverage across the year and broaden the crop range, diversifying marketing channels and options. This finally enables retention of added value at the farm level.

Expected outcome
The clear entry point is farm income, but approach coherence is also pivotal with organic farms interested in developing agroecological solutions and not just carrying out input substitution. The evolution has to take into consideration new income opportunities generated by alternative crops and marketing channels. This allows income diversification and consolidation; leading to a more active involvement of small farms in co-innovation initiatives.

Relevance to the DiverIMPACTS goals
The case study will allow experiencing the contribution of crop diversification to the improvement of biodiversity and to the economic competitiveness of farmers (both organic and conventional). It will allow showing the technical, economic, and environmental advantages of the agricultural practices focused on the project while facilitating their adoption as strategies capable of having positive effects on the local communities (enhancement of short production chain, valorization, and recovery of local varieties for the preparation of local food and products).

Contact

  • Laura Ridolfi, ASR, case study leader