A number of EU-funded arable research projects are to work together to encourage the growing of a wider spread of crops across the continent. The ‘crop diversification cluster’ will bring together organisations from countries across the climatic zones of Europe, alongside input from international partners.

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“It is well-accepted that the diversification of crops through rotation, multiple cropping and species mixtures can allow farming systems to become more resource-efficient with fewer agronomic inputs,” explains chief executive of the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) Roger Vickers.

“To this end, the crop diversification cluster has been set up to maximise the impact of six projects, all of which receive funding from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. These are DiverIMPACTS, Diverfarming, DIVERSify, ReMIX, LegValue and TRUE.

“The legume crops covered are faba beans and peas – the most-grown pulses in the UK – as well as chickpeas, lentils, lupins and soybeans. The initiative also includes clover, lucerne and cowpeas.

“Projects within the cluster are collaborating to increase the impact of research into diversification and encourage sustained uptake of diversification measures in Europe through innovations across the agri-value chain.”

The partners within the cluster intend to jointly demonstrate the benefits of diversification to European farmers and the wider society. They will engage with stakeholders in the upstream and downstream value chains through knowledge transfer in the following areas: identifying barriers to crop diversification and offering solutions; promoting innovative cropping methods, decision tools and new resources for crop diversification; highlighting new market-focused approaches and field demonstrations across the climatic regions of Europe, in order to share innovation and crop diversification experiences; adopt a multi-criteria assessment of system performance at field, farm, value chain and landscape levels; make policy recommendations to facilitate the uptake of wider crop diversification; and communicating joint activities in the cluster and disseminating joint outputs.

“The PGRO is closely involved with two of the six projects – LegValue and TRUE,” continues Mr Vickers. “With our obvious interest in pulse and legume cropping, we strongly support the diversification of crops through rotation, multiple cropping and species mixtures. This has the potential to allow farming systems to become more resource-efficient while using fewer agronomic inputs.

“Diversified systems can help meet the needs of end users for food, feed and industrial products – and simultaneously deliver other ecosystem services and public goods,” he concludes.

For further information and/or contact with individual cluster project teams, contact Mr Vickers on roger@pgro.org or 01780 782585.