AN Group, CSIC (Superior Council of Scientific Research), University of Reading and the companies, GrainSense and Iden Biotechnology, are working to find solutions to some of the most important problems that farmers face in wheat, rust and drought.
Rust is a disease caused mainly by Puccinia and Melampsora fungus. It appears mostly in leaves as small, brownish – orange lumps. These fungus attack almost all types of plants, causing the fall of leaves and affecting the grain production of various cereals.
On the other hand, the drought is becoming a big problem, as the episode suffered last year, generating difficulties in many regions in the agricultural sector. The impact on agriculture has been enormous. As an example, cereal harvest was reduced by 35% in Spain compared to the previous year (only 15 million tons were harvested). In the case of Castilla y León region, the harvest decreased by 63%. These data must be analyzed in the context of a cereals deficient country like Spain. Even in years of excellent weather conditions and excellent harvests, as 2016, where the harvest exceeded 23.5 million tons, around 10 million tons of grain had to be imported to meet the needs of flour mills, feed mills, malting plants and livestock that consume more than 33 million tons per year.
WHEATQUAL_2018 project is focused in the actions promoted by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). EIT-Food brings together a consortium of 50 companies, universities and research centers, for a period of seven years. The EIT fosters entrepreneurial talent and supports innovative ideas, connecting the parties of the 'knowledge triangle' formed by companies, universities and research centers. This is one of the European Commission challenges 'To place Europe at the center of the world revolution in the field of innovation and food production'.
This project has been approved and initiated thanks to the relevance of the objectives that are pursued and the important synergies that exist among its members. Members included: Grupo AN, an Spanish cooperative well-recognized for its wheat production and its active involvement seeking solutions to avoid productive losses due to drought and rust, CSIC which has an extensive agronomy knowledge and agricultural research lines related to sustainable agriculture and tolerance to environmental stresses like drought, University of Reading located in England with many years of experience dedicated to the study of rust, the Finnish startup GrainSense that develops a portable equipment to measure the quality of cereals in field and CIMMYT (International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat) which is a reference in the development of resistant varieties to drought. Iden Biotechnology collaborates in the project with the objective of identifying the benefits regarding the use of its biostimulant products under water stress conditions. The company collaborates providing biostimulant products for testing in field trials both in Spain and United Kingdom.
Currently, there are field trials launched at UPNA (Public University of Navarra) and at University of Reading facilities which are monitoring and evaluating the performance and quality of wheat in response to Iden Biotechnology’s biostimulants products. The applications of these products were performed simultaneous with fungicides products in five different wheat varieties. Additionally, in the greenhouse of the Institute of Agrobiotechnology, the same parameters, yield and quality, are being monitored under controlled conditions in response to the application of the biostimulants and the effect under drought stress in 10 different wheat varieties.