DIVERSIFOOD Newsletter #4

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“All is running well”. With these words Véronique Chable, DIVERSIFOOD coordinator, summed up the first year-and-a-half of the project lifetime. Meetings, public events, trainings, field experiments: many activities were organized in different countries with the overall goal of enriching the diversity of cultivated plants through a multi-actor approach.


DIVERSIFOOD, "Embedding crop diversity and networking for local high quality food systems", is an international project funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme for 4 years.

DIVERSIFOOD involves 21 organizations from 12 countries to enrich cultivated biodiversity by testing and promoting underutilized or forgotten crop species.

This DIVERSIFOOD newsletter aims at informing about the project development and results. It is published twice a year.

Learn more about the project

Download the DIVERSIFOOD brochure in English

Download the DIVERSIFOOD brochure in French

Other languages available soon!


What is DIVERSIFOOD all about? Who are the actors involved? And what are the challenges we are facing to promote a new way of thinking agriculture? Find it out watching the “DIVERSIFOOD in pills” video interviews.

 DIVERSIFOOD recent activities


What are the keywords of agricultural diversity? Within the DIVERSIFOOD project, this was a crucial question in order to define a common ground of concepts and methodologies. After an intense working group activity, the consortium came up with a set of 8 key concepts
  • Diversified food systems
  • Food quality
  • Sustainable food systems
  • Food democracy
  • Community management of agro-biodiversity
  • Collaborative, participative and action research
  • Trans-disciplinarity and paradigmatic shift
  • Co-evolutionary processes
All these keywords were gathered under a main umbrella concept: “resilience”.
“The overall challenge – explained Edwin Nuijten of LBI and leader of this DIVERSIFOOD work package – is now maintaining diversity in methods, methodologies and paradigms. We need to combine the different keywords and concepts, not to homogenize them”. A Diversifood booklet defining these keywords will be published in the coming months.



DIVERSIFOOD uses a combination of approaches to optimise the management of on-farm, multi-actor crop evaluation. 

Within this framework, a major objective is to build an inventory of underutilised crops for marginal/specific conditions and new utilisations. This goal was reached during the first part of the project, starting from this question: “what is needed to be known about a new/underutilised crop, and which needs should a trial answer?”

“The main problem – explained Ambrogio Costanzo of ORC and leader of this DIVERSIFOOD work package – is that quantitative information is not available for the species we’re working with: that’s what we aim to obtain in the project”.

At the same time, some preliminary crop trials were set up. The crop evaluation process is being carried on using participatory approaches, in order to build up new knowledge and bring up knowledge that is already on the field.



“Developing new populations and improving them with different breeding methods”. This is one of the main goals of DIVERSIFOOD, as explained Isabelle Goldringer of INRA and leader of the work package about participatory crop improvement. 

As important as the discovery and characterization of diverse and untapped genetic resources, their combination and use through the development of new populations and their improvement is of vital importance. 

In order to reach this goal, DIVERSIFOOD is developing new breeding methods for creating diversity from genetic resources towards new populations. 

During the first part of the project, different experimental designs were settled: among them, RAS, ITAB, and RSP are testing tomatoes varieties in farmers’ fields; INRA, RSR, RAS, RSP are working on several forms of untapped or forgotten species or forms of cereals; INRA and RSP are working on buckwheat; CSIC is working on faba bean; ITQB in collaboration with IPC is working on maize for human food; FiBL is dealing with lupin resistance against Colletotrichum. 

The results of the different experiments will be used to design methods and user-friendly tools specifically suited for on farm breeding. The new derived populations, as well as the developed methods, will serve to improve production global performance while maintaining diverse and rare qualities corresponding to emerging consumer demand.


What is a Community Seed Bank? What are the most effective case studies to be analysed in order to promote locally produced seeds? What are the key actions to support an innovative biodiversity management?

During the first year of the project, all these questions have been addressed. A preliminary list of all the experiences working with local varieties and referring as potential Community Seed Banks (CSBs) were identified. The first innovation factsheet on Defining Community Seed Banks was produced. 

The crops to be used as case studies dealing with locally produced seeds systems were also defined: tomato, wheat, buckwheat, maize, carrot and potato. 

Moreover, an agreement was signed with the CAPSELLA project. “In synergy with DIVERSIFOOD – explained Riccardo Bocci of RSR and leader of this work package – CAPSELLA will improve the database of seed conserved and distributed in/from European seed houses. The final goal is building a useful tool which will gather information about soil and climate”.


It is crucial to the DIVERSIFOOD project, that food diversity based on heritage or newly bred varieties from participatory plant breeding can be introduced into the market. The overall aim is to produce recommendations and guidelines for their marketing and valorisation strategies . 

To that end, different case studies will enable to identify critical factors of successful or unsuccessful marketing strategies and to analyse in detail the whole process of added value and communication from the breeder to the consumer.

“We’re exploring consumers’ preferences – said Bernadette Oehen of FiBL and leader of this DIVERSIFOOD work package – in order to find the best ways to communicate the added values of diversified food”.

The consortium defined all the stakeholders to be included within this process: successful market introduction requires some collaboration and communication between all the actors involved from breeders/multipliers, farmers, technicians, processors, retailers, intermediate users and the final consumers.

 DIVERSIFOOD Public Events

DIVERSIFOOD Multi-stakeholders meetings

(Image: INRA)

In the process of designing breeding strategies in a co-construction approach, several multi-stakeholders meetings took place in France (INRA, RSP, ITAB), Portugal (IPC), Italy (RSR), and Austria (Arche Noah).
These events aimed to:
  • Provide information from previous projects and previous seasons trials
  • Manage DIVERSIFOOD actions by group questions, identification of priorities to stakeholders and actions to be implemented and identify the best strategy for breeding in a co-construction approach
  • Support networking and collaboration between different stakeholders (farmers, consumers, retailers, chefs, scientists) in the context of a participatory plant breeding initiatives from the breeding techniques to the taste of the products;
  • Provide protocols (e.g. statistical elements) and long term objectives.
FRANCE: wheat and maize, legumes
(Image: INRA)
In France, INRA and RSP organized two share shops and training in July and September 2016 on organic and peasant wheat and on the creation, selection, evaluation and conservation of on-farm varieties of maize. ITAB also organized a public event on wheat populations and legumes.

ITALY: Wheat and barley

(Image: RSR)

In Italy more than 20 farm field visits were held from June to September 2016 in different regions, organized by the Rete Semi Rurali (RSR). Various species of wheat and barley were tested, as well as and rotation crops.
Moreover, a workshop on seed legislation was organized by RSR on December 2016, to reflect on how to integrate seed systems and community seed banks.

SWITZERLAND: lupin and legumes

(Image: FiBL)

In Switzerland, from May to September 2016 FiBL organized 5 public events and share shops on lupin and legumes. Local food producers were involved by giving them place to present their products.

(Image: FiBL)

SWITZERLAND: Seed cultivation and carrots

(Image: PSR)

In Switzerland, ProSpecieRara organized two public events in June and August 2016 on seeds cultivations: seed propagators and gardeners were updated with important information about PSR community seed bank. Another event was organized in October 2016 on purple carrots, with the objective of involving Chefs and commercial representatives in the breeding process of an old carrot type, to ensure the keeping or enhancing of the characterized taste properties.

SPAIN: Training on local varieties

(Image: RAS)

In Spain, RAS organized 5 public events from May to October 2016 for the development of the network of farmer-researchers using local varieties. Training activities with different stakeholders to increase the technical knowledge in the production of vegetable seed were also organized.  

 HUNGARY: Tomatoes

(Image: ÖMKi)

In Hungary, ÖMKi organized a public event in August 2016 in Budapest, to promote landrace tomatoes among consumers and representatives of the gastronomy.

FINLAND: workshop on crop biodiversity 


A DIVERSIFOOD workshop on “Enabling Crop Biodiversity on the Market” was organized in Helsinki on 22-23 November by ESVY – Southern Finland Organic Farmers Association, FOPA – Finnish Organic Farmers Alliance, Kymi Organic Coop, Kuhilas Ry and ARCHE NOAH. 

CYPRUS: Food security @Researchers’ night

(Image: ARI)

In Cyprus, the Agricultural Research Institute organized a public event within the framework of the Researchers’ night, an international initiative held in September 2016 all around Europe. In Nicosia, scientists, farmers, policy makers, and the general public gathered together to share the importance of seeds and their diversity for the environment and food security.

UK: Field trials

(Image: ORC)

In UK, the Organic Research Centre organized several field trials over Summer and Autumn 2016. The objective was assessing the suitability of ancient wheat species, Einkorn, Emmer and Rivet for Organic agriculture in the UK. Chickpeas, Quinoa and Buckwheat cultivars are also being tested, looking for suitable germplasms to be organically grown and marketed in the UK.
Food systems & quality
Participatory Plant Breeding
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IMAGES:  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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