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Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-IOF | Phase: FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IOF | Award Amount: 155.13K | Year: 2012

Lucerne (Medicago sativa) is the main forage crop in southern Europe and could gain further importance for water- and energy-efficient crop-livestock systems in the context of climate change, especially if its drought tolerance could be enhanced. The objective of the research work is to improve its forage yield and persistence and its forage quality for moisture-favourable and severely drought-prone environments, through genomic selection models developed from a genome-wide set of molecular markers. Genomic selection, which is particularly useful to select for complex, quantitatively inherited traits, has never been applied to forage legumes. Its current application is made possible by the recent development of sufficient genomic resources by the outgoing institution (the Noble Foundation, Ardmore, USA), where the genotyping work will be performed. Phenotyping under moisture-favourable and severe drought-stress conditions will be carried out in the return institution (CRA-FLC, Lodi, Italy) exploiting its platform of large artificial environments. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) for the target traits will also be identified, and different strategies and techniques for defining marker assisted selection procedures will be compared. The objective of the training activity is to strengthen and widen the competences of the candidate in genomics and molecular breeding, with regard to: i) optimization of genotyping as a function of marker type, available resources, research objectives, and plant material and reproductive system; ii) statistical analysis of marker-trait association and QTL location for different breeding systems and experimental situations (biparental mapping populations, association mapping, bulk segregant analysis, etc.); iii) definition and validation of genomic selection models; iv) marker-assisted selection strategies. The new skills and competences will be transferred to staff of the return institution through seminars and individual training.

Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-TP | Phase: KBBE.2013.1.2-03 | Award Amount: 6.90M | Year: 2014

WHEALBI will combine genomics, genetics and agronomy to improve European wheat and barley production in competitive and sustainable cropping systems. Germplasm representing the species diversity will be selected and characterised in unprecedented detail by next-generation-sequencing. Life history and adaptive traits will be evaluated in both transnational field experiments and a state-of-the-art precision phenotyping platform. Germplasm will be stored in a specialised and accessible bio-repository and associated data in knowledge bases that will represent a valuable legacy to the community. Whole genome association scans will be conducted for several traits, signatures of adaptive selection will be explored, and allele mining of candidate genes will reveal new variation associated with specific phenotypes. Pre-breeding tools and pipelines will be developed to optimize the efficiency of allele transfer from unadapted germplasm into elite breeding lines. New methodologies will explore how to optimally exploit the large amount of new genotypic and phenotypic data available. They will focus on the design of ideotypes with improved yield stability and tolerance to biotic and climatic stresses and provide proof of concept of the efficiency of genome and phenome assisted selection. Ideotypes and reference varieties will be evaluated in innovative cropping systems, particularly organic farming and no-till agriculture, and an economic evaluation of these approaches will be conducted. The results will be disseminated to a broad user community, highlighting the benefits and issues associated with the adoption of what is considered sustainable and environmentally friendly wheat and barley crop production in a European context. WHEALBI aims to help the EU remain a major actor in world small grain cereal production while addressing the pressing global priorities of increasing and stabilising primary production, improving food quality and safety, and reducing environmental impact.

Agency: Cordis | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-RISE | Phase: MSCA-RISE-2015 | Award Amount: 783.00K | Year: 2016

ExpoSEED aims to integrate forward and reverse genetic approaches to dissect the molecular mechanisms that control seed/kernel (hereafter referred as seed) yield in model species and to transfer the acquired knowledge to selected crops as legumes and cereals. The identification of molecular hubs that determine seed number and size will put the basis for the development of breeding tools to improve seed production at the beginning of the seed market. Research on model species has recently allowed to identify key transcription factors that regulate plant reproduction together with exploring the conservation of the molecular mechanisms that finally control the plant fitness in distantly related species. The next challenge is now to deeper dissect the molecular networks controlled by these key factors to finally manipulate agronomic traits. The partners of ExpoSEED will identify the targets of key transcription factors in model species as Arabidopsis and rice and they will transfer this knowledge to crops, as soybean, wheat and barley. Candidate target genes will be further characterized using genetic and cell-biology tools together with searching new alleles in large panel of wild and cultivated germplasm. As a parallel approach, germplasm collections and segregating populations will be used for mapping studies to identify novel factors controlling seed yield in legumes and cereals. ExpoSEED aims to create synergies to efficiently address scientific and societal issues. From the scientific perspective, now is the right moment: a number of completed crop genome sequences and novel genetic and cell biology tools will support the comparative biology approaches aimed in this project. Considering the societal issue, food security is a worldwide priority: in the context of population growth and less arable land, increasing food production is one of the challenges for this century

Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-IP | Phase: KBBE.2013.1.2-01 | Award Amount: 8.01M | Year: 2014

Agroforestry is the practice of deliberately integrating woody vegetation (trees or shrubs) with crop and/or animal systems to benefit from the resulting ecological and economic interactions. AGFORWARD (AGroFORestry that Will Advance Rural Development) is a four-year project, developed by 23 organisations at the forefront of agroforestry research, practice and promotion in Europe, with the goal of promoting appropriate agroforestry practices that advance sustainable rural development. The project will i) increase our understanding of existing, and new extensive and intensive agroforestry systems in Europe; ii) identify, develop and demonstrate innovations to improve the ecosystem service benefits and viability of agroforestry systems in Europe using participatory research, iii) develop better adapted designs and practices for the different soil and climatic conditions of Europe, and iv) promote the wide adoption of sustainable agroforestry systems. Successful and sustainable agroforestry practices are best developed by farmers and land owners working in partnership with researchers, extension staff, and other rural businesses. AGFORWARD will facilitate 33 participative agroforestry research and development stakeholder groups to improve the resilience of i) existing agroforestry systems of high nature and cultural value such as the dehesa and montado; and ii) olive, traditional orchard, and other high value tree systems, and the sustainability of iii) arable and iv) livestock systems with the integration of trees. Using existing bio-economic models, AGFORWARD will evaluate and adapt the innovations to improve the delivery of positive ecosystem services and business profitability at farm- and landscape-scales across Europe. By using and developing existing European fora, such as the European Agroforestry Federation, AGFORWARD will implement an informative and effective promotion programme to benefit the European economy, environment and society.

Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-TP | Phase: KBBE.2012.1.2-01 | Award Amount: 4.58M | Year: 2013

Agricultural residues could represent a good source of biomass to convert into energy in particular wherever it is impractical to convert cropland to energy crop cultivation . According to FAOs reportage (1997) , large quantities of ligneous biomass can be obtained from pruning operations carried out in Mediterranean fruit plantations. Agricultural residues therefore play an important role in any analysis of biomass availability for a specific area. For this reason it is important to conduct a thorough study of the types of permanent crops in Europe and the potential of biomass obtained by its pruning. There is a big potential market in pruning residues, mainly power generation but not only. Nowadays these types of residues are just taken apart from the filed and used locally, Leaving on the ground a potential profitable business for farmers, logistic companies and final users. Nowadays the pruning means just a cost for the farmers, but with a new implemented logistic chain they could take advantage in order to sell this product in the biomass market and providing a new business model for logistic operators, biomass sellers and final users, which could find a bigger amount of resources and a decreasing of the costs. It already exists and implemented and developed logistic chain for straw residues, but there is not for pruning.

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