MSc Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Conference, NUIG

Monday 4th September 2017 from 0900-1800
ILAS Lecture Theatre, National University of Ireland Galway

All are welcome – free admission! To register your attendance send email with name, address and your affiliation to:

For the full programme of the event click here

Drought-proofing crops in Italy: is millet the grain of the future?

Stefania Grando (centre) talking about millet at Podere Santa Croce (photo: Bettina Bussi RSR)

In 2017 Italy experienced one of the worst droughts on record: the Po river reached a record-low level of 3.5 m below its hydrological zero in the month of June. The Po river valley (pianura padana) stretches from the north-west region of Piemonte to center-east Emilia-Romagna. Arguably, it’s one of the most fertile regions in Europe, its intensive agriculture however, relies heavily on irrigation during the summer months. Since October 2016, no significant precipitations occurred over the region, leading to an increasing hydrological deficit, aggravated by the exceptionally high temperatures recorded in June. Continue reading “Drought-proofing crops in Italy: is millet the grain of the future?”

Back to the future for the wheat of tomorrow

Farmers in Italy experiment with evolutionary populations

Biologist, science communicator and podcaster Jeremy Cherfas, visits Modesto Petacciato’s farm in Molise, south-east Italy, during the “Let’s Cultivate Diversity” event, June 2017. The event revolves on the deployment of evolutionary populations of cereals in marginal hilly lands, under low-input or organic management. 


Weather patterns shaping soft wheat Evolutionary Population composition


Meteorological data collected for the two main locations of the DIVERSIFOOD trials on soft wheat Evolutionary Populations, are compared side by side for the whole period of adaptation of same SOLIBAM soft wheat EP in these two very different regions (Floriddia-Tuscany and Li Rosi-Sicily).

Thermal time (cumulative Growing Degree Days) for Tuscany (Floriddia) and Sicily (Li Rosi). Graph shows a clear warming trend in both locations over the 6 growing seasons period (Oct-June).

Growing seasons’ rainfall (Oct-June) for Tuscany (Floriddia) and Sicily (Li Rosi). Graph highlights high inter-annual variability for both locations, with Sicily being generally dryer than Tuscany. Continue reading “Weather patterns shaping soft wheat Evolutionary Population composition”

Evolutionary wheat populations to enter the Italian formal seed system

Floriddia’s farm – Peccioli, Pisa

On 8-10 June 2017 at Rosario Floriddia‘s Farm, Peccioli, Pisa, Rete Semi Rurali (RSR) celebrated 10 years of activity with three days of study, discussion and celebration of Italy’s rich agricultural biodiversity. 116 different local varieties and populations of durum, turanicum and soft wheat were standing side by side in the field displaying the wealth of diversity held by RSR in their community seed bank “Casa della Semente”. Just beside this living library of sorts, the randomised block trials with 14 soft wheat and 14 durum wheat entries were ready for the participatory evaluation by the 50 delegates who arrived on the first day. Continue reading “Evolutionary wheat populations to enter the Italian formal seed system”

Cereal populations in the hills of Molise – the way forward for organic wheat growing

SOLIBAM soft wheat EP at Petacciato’s farm

As part of Rete Semi Rurali‘s series of events dedicated to cereals, on 2nd June I attended the event Let’s Cultivate Diversity in Modesto Petacciato’s farm in San Giuliano di Puglia (Molise), on the hills overlooking the Adria sea to the east, and the planes of Puglia to the south. The event was centred around cultivation and use of evoulutionary populations (EP) of soft wheat, durum wheat and barley, which Modesto has been growing on his organic certified 30ha farm since 2011. Continue reading “Cereal populations in the hills of Molise – the way forward for organic wheat growing”

Participatory breeding at Li Rosi’s farm, Sicily

Giuseppe Li Rosi outlining the rules of engagement

The 21st of May the first Let’s Liberate Diversity event of the year was held at Giuseppe Li Rosi’s farm, nested on the hills of Raddusa, a small town overlooking the plane of Catania on the East and the Erei mountains on the west. The main activity in this area is farming and this is real durum wheat country. The event was organised by Rete Semi Rurali in partnership with the University of Florence and University of Catania, within the DIVERSIFOOD framework. Continue reading “Participatory breeding at Li Rosi’s farm, Sicily”

Granicoltura – The Sicilian Wheat Research Station

Sicilian wheat research station

On the 20th May I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Biodiversity Day at the “Stazione Consorziale Sperimentale di Granicoltura per la Sicilia” in Caltagirone, the Sicilian wheat research station responsible for the conservation of local varieties, breeding and research for the wheat growing and processing sector. The station was founded in 1927 and its first director, Dr Ugo de Cillis, was one of the first Italian scientists to understand the importance of genetic resources, in a region which is one of the centres of origins of durum wheat. Under his direction, a comprehensive inventory of Sicily’s wheat landraces was undertaken, and over 50 local varieties of Triticum durum, aestivum and turanicum were collected and described. Continue reading “Granicoltura – The Sicilian Wheat Research Station”

Getting started at Rete Semi Rurali

Mixture of local maize varieties at RSR

The seeds of maize I had the pleasure to plant on my first day at Rete Semi Rurali have now germinated and are well underway. They’re a mixture of different Italian local varieties and they will cross pollinate with one another this season to generate an evolutionary population of maize for years to come. Continue reading “Getting started at Rete Semi Rurali”

The real father of the green revolution

150 years before Norman Borlaugh’s crosses ushered in the High Yielding Varieties we know today, the Italian pioneer of modern plant breeding provided its nation with the highly strategic self sufficiency in wheat production, during the autarchic effort known as “battaglia del grano” (the battle of the wheat). Nazareno Strampelli’s Durum wheat “Senatore Cappelli” has recently resurged to glory, thanks to its excellent quality for pasta making and suitability to organic conditions.

– Jeremy Cherfas reports –

The True Father of the First Green Revolution