Starting from seed, adapting to climate change

riso resilienteAmong the greatest problems facing the planet today are loss of biodiversity, climate change, poverty, water, and world hunger. To these have been added, in recent years, the problems of obesity (not a disease in itself, but a condition that predisposes to many diseases including type 2 diabetes) and diabetes, which have now become pandemic. Although these problems are often dealt with separately, they are linked and have one common denominator: seeds. A relationship is beginning to emerge between the increasing uniformity of food, a consequence of the varietal uniformity pursued over the last 50 years by genetic improvement, and disease. The consequence of this relationship is that an unhealthy diet is now one of the main causes of ill health in developed economies. The RESILIENT RICE research programme aims to contribute to addressing this issue through the development of seeds that, due to their ability to adapt to climate change, can produce healthy food for present and future populations. Evolutionary populations are used by farmers as a source from which to select new varieties, either by themselves or with the participation of technicians and researchers. This way of managing an evolutionary population creates medium- and long-term benefits, and its effects are felt well beyond the duration of a project: the increased possibility and competence to select seeds within evolutionary populations increases farmers’ ability to respond dynamically to new market demands or the emergence of new diseases and insects, which are also linked to climate change. The long-term objective of the programme is to contribute to the transition of the Italian rice system towards an agro-ecological cultivation model based on diversification. In the short term, the aim of the Resilient Rice project has been to facilitate access to less uniform varieties than those currently on the market, favouring their adaptation to local contexts, including cultivation techniques. The new EU Organic Regulation will come into force in January 2022 and from that moment on, the organic seed sector will open up to a simplified variety registration and certification system based on diversity. Through a participatory (involving stakeholders, including consumers) and decentralised (on-farm) research model, the programme has identified the most suitable rice varieties for organic and biodynamic cultivation and different agronomic techniques, and has also started trials on varietal mixtures and evolutionary populations.

Campi sperimentali presso Candia Lomellina (2018)

The project benefited from the collaboration and experimental results related to organic and biodynamic rice agronomic techniques identified by the research group of the University of Milan, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policies within the Risobiosystem project. Duration: 2018-2020 (phase 1) More info:message 2 icon  

Project supported by the Cariplo Foundation