Biodiversity – Supporting our Fragile Ecosystem
The more we know about our ecosystem, the more we understand just how fragile it is. The European Union is supporting two the initiatives - G2P-SOL and NEUROSTRESSPEP – in their efforts to enhance biodiversity and sustain our ecosystem
The EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy is just the first step towards an ambitious new global framework to be discussed at the UN Biodiversity Conference in October 2020. The strategy includes reduced use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture, proposals for green European cities and increased biodiversity in urban spaces, a new EU Forest Strategy aimed at improving the quality and quantity of European forests, –and the 'blue economy' - better use of marine resources, for example by promoting the use of algae and other new sources of protein.
Restoring Crop Diversity
Solanaceous plant species include major crops such as potato, tomato, pepper and aubergine. Together, these four foods account for 66 % of the value of European horticultural production, with potatoes providing the staple food for more than 800 million people worldwide. Israeli researchers and professionals from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Agricultural Research Organization of Israel – The Volcani Center, and Phenom Networks Ltd., are among those working towards this goal.
When undergoing adaptation for human use, solanaceous plants lose much of their genetic richness and become more sensitive to environmental stress and damage. The EU-funded G2P-SOL project, in which Prof. Dani Zamir from the Hebrew University, recipient of the 2020 Israel Prize for his outstanding achievements in the fields of agricultural research and environmental science, is a partner, aims to recover the diversity and increase the productivity, adaptability and nutritional value of these crops.
To this end, it is cataloguing and improving the information on genetic relationships, levels of diversity and extent of duplication in the different genebank collections which cover a wide range of genotype and phenotype variations for each crop.
This is a novel innovation as Dr. Ilan Paran, from The Agricultural Research Organization of Israel - The Volcani Centre, Co-Leader of one of the project's work packages explains: "For the first time, we have accumulated data from multiple genebank collections, enabling us a more efficient and precise analysis of each crop's genetic diversity. By being able to identify the most efficient, disease-resistant and high-quality characteristics, we can ensure a better product, both for Europe and globally."
The resulting material will be distributed to breeders and farmers by a network of seed repositories established under G2P-SOL. Workshops for users will promote application of the material and knowledge in breeding and conservation, thereby helping to diversify food production and enhance food security and agricultural sustainability in a changing environment.
Project Acronym: G2P-SOL
Grant agreement ID: 677379
EU contribution: € 6,891,265
Start date: 1 March 2016; End date: 28 February 2021
Topic(s): SFS-07b-2015 - Management and sustainable use of genetic resources
Call for proposal: H2020-SFS-2015-2
Coordinator: Agenzia nazionale per le nuove tecnologie, l'energia e lo sviluppo economico sostenibile (Italy)
Israeli Participants: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; The Agricultural Research Organisation of Israel - The Volcani Centre; Phenom Networks Ltd
> CORDIS link
> EC Success story
Less pesticides and fertilizers, 'green' European cities, a new EU Forest Strategy and the 'blue economy' – all important components of European biodiversity policy aimed at protecting the fragile ecosystem
Using Insects' Hormones Against Them
Conventional chemical pesticides are harmful to both health and the environment, increasingly ineffective against resistant species of insect, and indiscriminate in their destruction of damaging and beneficial insects such as honeybees. The resultant growing pressure to limit their use has led EU-funded researchers to seek eco-friendly alternatives. nEUROSTRESSPEP – an EU-funded research consortium – is working on a new generation of 'bio' pest management by using insects' own hormones against them.
By developing chemicals similar to insects' natural hormones, nEUROSTRESSPEP seeks to develop 'green' pesticides that target some insects while protecting others and that is suitable for use in agriculture, horticulture and even forestry.
Among the project's other developments are artificial eco-friendly substances that block insects' ability to survive and reproduce, and genetically modified male insects, both leading to a gradual reduction in the number of harmful insects.
Drawing on a database with more than 5,000 insect hormones, the researchers progressed from lab tests to prototype versions of the biopesticides in greenhouse trials to evaluate results on insects that attack crops such as cereals and vegetables. The next step is outdoor trials.
Prof. Vinnie (Miriam) Altstein, from The Agricultural Research Organization of Israel - The Volcani Center, Leader of a nEUROSTRESSPEP's Work Package, explains the projects uniqueness: "Not only did the European Commission agree to fund the consortium, they also achieved the rare feat recruiting all the relevant top-level researchers in this field. We are a group of about 30 professional colleagues, so the project's results thus far and their potential ramifications for the future of pest management are tremendous."
The research findings were also discussed throughout with farmers, policymakers and industry, all of whom share a concern for finding 'greener' ways of controlling pest insects, ensuring food security, and meeting consumer needs.
Project Acronym: nEUROSTRESSPEP
Grant agreement: 634361
EU contribution: € 6,995,052.50
Start date: 1 June 2015; End date: 1 May 2019
Topic(s): SFS-03a-2014 - Native and alien pests in agriculture and forestry
Call for proposal: H2020-SFS-2014-2
Coordinator: University of Glasgow (United Kingdom)
Israeli participant: The Agricultural Research Organisation of Israel - The Volcani Centre
> CORDIS link
> EC Success story