A new research initiative led by Scotland’s James Hutton Institute is set to explore innovative mixed-species crop systems, or ‘plant teams’, in a drive to tackle a global challenge: how to feed a growing population from finite resources without wrecking our planet. The €5m DIVERSify project, short for ‘Designing InnoVative plant teams for Ecosystem Resilience and agricultural Sustainability’, aims to optimise the performance of cereals grown with legumes.
Legumes are a very special type of crop; they are not only a source of highly nutritious food and feed but legumes require no inorganic nitrogen fertiliser, which means they have major advantages as a more sustainable crop. Despite their benefits, legume-based farming systems have not become common practice as they are seen as being less profitable.
This may soon change however, owing to a new research initiative led by scientists at the James Hutton Institute, working with colleagues from European organisations. The “TRansition paths to sUstainable legume-based systems in Europe” (TRUE) research project aims to identify how society may transition to sustainable legume-based farming systems and agricultural feed and food networks.
According to recent media reports the European Commission seems poised to ban some of Europe’s most widely used pesticides to protect bees and other pollinators, but is the move likely to have an impact on food production and security? Scientists at the James Hutton Institute have demonstrated that many farmers can reduce agrochemical inputs by using alternative pest control methods without reducing yield or quality.