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?”
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”
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.
Ethiopia’s potato production is sharply increasing despite a modest change in cultivated area, thanks to better seed quality and improved cultivars acting as yield drivers. Sourse: FAOSTAT (accessed November 2016)