Terre Frumentarie

Utilization of landraces and evolutionary populations

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Terre Frumentarie

Case Study Contents

About Farm

Farm Name

Terre Frumentarie

Year of foundation

1999

Location

Catania and Enna, Sicilia

Farm area/size of the organisation:

200 ha

Number of workers:

4 workers

Farm main activity:

Cereals

Climate and soil characteristics

Clay soil, hilly area (350 m.a.s.l.). Hot and arid climate during summer with mild winters.

Measure Information

Description of the measure

Landraces (old varieties) have good levels of heterogeneity and are potentially better adapted to pedoclimatic conditions compared to modern varieties, which are standardized and selected to perform very well in optimal conditions.

Evolutionary populations have a very high level of heterogeneity as they are created breeding a lot of different varieties; over the years, they adapt to the local conditions.

Objective of the measure

To use seeds which are highly heterogeneous with a higher capacity to adapt to the specific pedoclimatic conditions and, also, to climate change.

Justification of the choice

By using these seeds, the farmer can choose those that are better adapted to his farm. It is a completely different approach compared to conventional agriculture, in which the seeds are homogeneous and standardized, with the environmental conditions that are “manipulated” to allow them to grow properly.

An advantage of this measure is that heterogeneous populations are more competitive against weeds compared to modern varieties.

Furthermore, because of the more developed root system, these varieties can access more nutrients and water.

Finally, the products that are obtained from these varieties have improved characteristics that are highly appreciated by consumers.

Where did You get information of the measure from?

From own investigations of the farmer e by talking with other farmers, associations and institutions.

Description of the situation before the measure implementation

Before the adoption of these practices, conventional agricultural practices with the use of chemicals and conventional seeds were applied. The price of wheat was much higher; hence, this kind of farming was economically sustainable. Now the price dropped, and conventional agriculture is always less sustainable, also from an economic perspective.

Stakeholders

Stakeholders involved

  • Cereal experimental station of Caltagirone
  • Rete Semi Rurali
  • Simenza
  • Gusto di Campagna
  • Movimento Terra è Vita

Description of stakeholders’ role

The experimental station contributed with seeds and information about their cultivation.

“Rete semi rurali” helps to create and maintain contacts with national and international farms.

“Simenza” is an association with the main objective to give “voice” to the farmers, create new networks for innovative ideas and collaborations, and to advocate with institutions.

Implementation phase

Materials used

To apply this measure it is not necessary to use different materials.

Recommended knowledge / skills / training / courses / education desired before starting the measure implementation:

Many different skills are necessary, mainly agronomic but also to deal with bureaucracy. Through Simenza, a course called “farmer keeper” is held to provide farmers with all the necessary skills to practice an alternative kind of agriculture. Particularly, it is important to retrieve old practices which were forgotten with the mentality brought by the “Green revolution”.

Impacts

Improved performance in years with less rainfall. More inter-year stability in the production.

Inputs costs are lower, particularly with organic agriculture.

The products are sold at a higher price since they have improved characteristics and are more appreciated by consumers.

The organic method used to grow these varieties ensure “better” environmental impacts compared to conventional agriculture.

A continuous exchange of knowledge with other interested farmers is promoted when using these varieties.

Furthermore, the tradition is valorized concerning the landraces and the methods of cultivation.

Innovation

Innovation elements

The innovative element is the “retroinnovation”, since old traditional practices are used. Of course, all the tools of the modern technologies are also used.

Key element for success

To renew the relationships between farmers and people in general that are at the base of knowledge sharing like in the past, when the knowledge was shared orally and through the other senses (taste, smell, etc.).

Constraints

Physical constraints

In optimal conditions, yields are lower (more or less the half).

Some populations are very rare since the farmers that utilize them are few and we are losing many of these varieties.

Technological constraints

It is necessary to be careful in the management of the seeds, since they are produced by the farmer himself.

Acceptance constraints

The yields are lower, and for this reason farmers might not want to grow these varieties. Moreover, growing these varieties is also a “political” or “way-of-life” choice and this vision is still not shared by many farmers.

Proposed solutions to above constraints

To insist with the sensibilization and the diffusion of these good practices and of their benefits.

Gallery

Lesson learned

Farmers’ experiences

The farmer is fully satisfied and convinced of the use of evolutionary populations and landraces.

Testimonies

“Food is not a simple aggregation of chemical nutrients, but the summation of relationships between living organisms, both humans and plants”.

Measure sustainability

Environmental sustainability

These varieties are grown mostly following organic agriculture, which is considered more environmental-friendly than other types of agriculture.

Economical sustainability

Since the yield are generally lower compared to conventional agriculture, the economic sustainability is reached when products are sold at higher prices in alternative markets and when farms manage to transform their wheat and directly sell their products.

Transfer of the measure

Replicability conditions required

  • To find adequate genetic resources.
  • To build a new food system and all the food-chains – farmers, mills, factories, bakeries, and consumers.

Additional Required Conditions for spreading the measure

Landraces and evolutionary populations might not be highly available in other countries.

Additionally, the consumers in other countries might not be prone to pay more for a product they don’t value “better”. Thus, it would be necessary to create a new market for these products.

Conclusion remarks

The utilization of seeds with a high heterogeneity guarantees a better adaptation to local pedoclimatic conditions. Also, the products obtained are of better quality and they are sold at higher prices.

Future plans

To keep resisting and try to be present at all levels.

Open problems

There are no real subsidies to promote this measure and, more in general, to protect biodiversity and the environment. The approval of these varieties has always been complicated; for example, in 2013 it was necessary that the Sicily region approved the cultivation of these varieties. The new law that aims to regulate these topics is not going to solve the problems, instead, it has some negative impacts.
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