Clustering efforts for crop diversification

Antoine Messéan, the project coordinator writes about the work being done in the H2020 'crop diversification cluster', which has been meeting on a regular basis since it started back in 2017.

Social dinner at the DiverIMPACTS Annual Meeting. From left to right: Becky Howard, PGRO, UK (TRUE); Henrik Hauggaard-Nielsen, RUC, DK (ReMIX); Frédéric Muel, TI, FR (Legume Value); Antoine Messéan, INRA, FR (DiverIMPACTS); Raúl Zornoza, UPCT, ES (Diverfarming); Inger Bertelsen, SEGES, DK (DIVERSify).

The cluster includes six multi-actor projects working on crop diversification: DiverIMPACTS, Diverfarming, DIVERSify, ReMIX, LEGVALUE and TRUE

The main objectives are to

  1. share information, methods and results,
  2. increase the overall impact on crop diversification uptake and
  3. sustain activities and infrastructures in the future.

Coordinators and key leaders of the cluster met on August 27 in Geneva, prior to the European Society of Agronomy (ESA) Congress, to start implementing the abovementioned objectives in practice. Several joint actions were agreed upon:

  • Barriers and enablers to crop diversification: Most projects have collated information on barriers and enablers to crop diversification and, although the scope and protocols differ across projects, the added value of sharing results will make the outcomes more robust;
  • Tool development to support farmer decision making: It was agreed that the projects will share activities related to tools for crop diversification in order to avoid overlapping as each project intends to produce similar tools albeit with slightly different scopes Several options were discussed, from a catalogue of all tools produced across the cluster to the development of a joint crop diversification tool box;
  • Multi-criteria assessment of crop diversification: All projects collate indicators to assess the performances of diversified systems, some focusing only on biophysical endpoints, others on both biophysical and socio-economic criteria. It was acknowledged that a multi-criteria assessment of diversified systems is crucial to drive crop diversification and help farmers select the best suited solution. Harmonising indicators whenever possible would be one joint challenge;
  • European Conference on Crop Diversification: The six projects agreed to contribute to a conference that was initially foreseen by DiverIMPACTS only. The objective of the Conference to be held in Budapest (18-21 September 2019) is to explore how we can achieve the full potential of agri-food system diversification. The conference also provides a platform to discuss the implications of implementing more integrated sociotechnical systems (research and development, education, advisory, business and policy sectors). The call for abstracts was discussed and validated.
  • Recommendations for policy-makers: Agricultural policies could be a barrier to crop diversification but also a strong driver. DiverIMPACTS, Diverfarming, TRUE and LegValue have specific tasks in this dimension, including an analysis of policies other than agricultural policies to assess their consistency. Projects will exchange, share their analysis and come up with joint proposals whenever relevant.

For each of the topics discussed in Geneva, a cross-project working group was set up and will meet on a regular basis.

The projects involved in the cluster also contributed to the ESA Congress where numerous papers on crop diversification were presented, illustrating that the topic is being given a lot of attention from the scientific community. The announcement of the European Conference on Crop Diversification was also made highly visible during the Congress.