DIVERSify is working with a group of Horizon 2020 research and innovation projects funded by the European Union to diversify agricultural systems and promote the uptake of crop diversification strategies. The five other projects in the ‘Crop Diversification Cluster’ include our sister project ReMIX, the LegValue and TRUE projects, which promote legume-based agri-feed and -food chains, and the DiverIMPACTS and Diverfarming projects promoting crop diversification throughout the farming system and value chain. These projects share common goals of diversifying crops and cropping systems to promote low input agronomic practices, develop resource efficient farming systems and demonstrate the benefits to farmers, other stakeholders and society. By sharing ideas and information and collaborating on joint activities and outputs, the cluster projects aim to maximise their overall impact on crop diversification in Europe.
Since the projects started in spring 2017, the project coordinators have been familiarising themselves with the partners and activities of each project. Initially, we attended each other’s project kick off meetings, and this was followed by a meeting in Brussels last year to identify common areas for collaboration. Policy advisers from the European Commission were also invited to join us, which helped establish priority areas for joint and focused efforts. The European Society of Agronomy conference in Geneva last August provided a perfect opportunity for a larger group of cluster project partners to get together to set up five cross-project working groups on:
Barriers to crop diversification and their solutions;
Innovative decision tools and new resources for crop diversification;
Multi-criteria assessment of system performance at field, farm, value chain and landscape levels;
Policy recommendations to facilitate uptake of crop diversification; and
Communicating joint activities in the cluster and disseminating joint outputs.
Since August 2018, DIVERSify partners have been contributing to each of the working groups, which are setting up their own initiatives to progress these cluster activities. The coordination teams of DIVERSify and TRUE based at the James Hutton Institute are working with partners responsible for communication and dissemination in each project. We have designed a leaflet to distribute at events to increase visibility of the cluster and plans are underway for a cluster website to communicate and promote cluster activities. The cluster projects will be represented at the EIP-AGRI workshop on ‘Cropping for the future: networking for crop rotation and crop diversification’ in the Netherlands. The cluster is also working with DiverIMPACTS to co-organise a European Conference on Crop Diversification which will be held in September of this year.
Already the prominence of the project cluster is increasing as the projects work together to engage with stakeholders in agricultural value chains and demonstrate the importance of crop diversification to farmers and society. The common ground these projects share will influence agricultural policy and provide tools that help farmers face the issues and challenges faced in today’s farming industry.
Watch out for further updates on cluster activities and join the conversation using the hashtag #cropdiversification on twitter.