With a virtual kick-off meeting, 28 international partners from 14 different countries are launching the new European Union’s research project ‘INCREASE’ in an attempt to foster agricultural biodiversity in Europe.
Looking into the status of plant genetic resources of 4 important traditional European food legumes – lupin, chickpea, common bean and lentil – the consortium’s objective is to develop efficient conservation tools and methods to promote agri-biodiversity in Europe.
The conservation, valorisation and utilisation of food legume genetic resources in European agriculture form the core development of both more sustainable agriculture as well as healthier food items.
It may be mentioned here that in several EU regions, human-plant protein intake is on the rise To meet the rising demand for innovative products and comply with the demands for healthy as well as environmentally friendly food, existing genetic resources in crop breeding have to be properly exploited.
However, breeding investment and research have been modest in the field of food legumes especially.
This is where the initiative intends to fundamentally address current shortcomings. Focusing on the four traditional legumes, the project ‘INCREASE’ would implement a new approach to conserve, manage and characterise genetic resources leading to benefits on different levels. It also promises to attract additional private and public investment to boost food legumes breeding.
Moreover, the availability and access to well-described and well-managed collections of genetic resources are of paramount importance for reaching a competitive level with respect to sustainability in the EU.
Sources said INCREASE will combine cutting-edge approaches in plant genetics and genomics, with most recent advances in IT and artificial intelligence to boost the conservation of European crop genetic resources.
“Indeed, utilisation of crop genetic resources is the key for their effective conservation”, said Roberto Papa, Full Professor of Plant Genetics at the Marche Polytechnic University in Ancona, Italy, and Scientific Coordinator of the project. “INCREASE will involve many stakeholders including SMEs, research institutions and NGOs through a dedicated consortium of stakeholders to facilitate their integration in the project”.
“Moreover, we will test on our food legumes a completely novel framework for genetic resources conservation. This will be revolutionising the landscape of agrobiodiversity conservation promoting crop diversity for a greener Europe and on a global scale”, Prof. Papa added.
It is worth noting that from genebanks management, plant genomics, bioinformatics and data analysis to biochemistry, IT and germplasm conservation and sharing, the INCREASE consortium covers diverse expertise.