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?”
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.
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).
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”
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”
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”
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.