The temporal and spatial diversification of crops through rotation, multiple cropping and/or intercropping contribute to low-input agronomic practices and resource-efficient farming systems, and constitute a key pillar of the transition towards sustainable agri-food systems. Crop diversification can fulfil the need to simultaneously produce food, feed, industrial products and deliver other ecosystem services and public goods by exploiting the potential of diversity and biological regulation at field and landscape levels. However, diversified and low-input farming systems can only emerge if clear benefits to farmers and society are demonstrated, if the upstream and downstream value chains are fully engaged, and if the sociotechnical regime is more disposed to support crop diversification.
The objective of the European Conference on Crop Diversification was therefore to explore how to achieve diversified agri-food systems for improved productivity, delivery of ecosystem services, resource-efficient and sustainable value chains as well as to discuss the implications of implementing more integrated sociotechnical systems (i.e., which facilitate co-innovation across research and development, education, advisory, business and policy sectors).
The focus was on all scientific aspects of agri-food system diversification, including support for practical implementation of crop diversification in value chains and policy-related issues. In particular, the conference addressed the following themes:
- Benefits, barriers, lock ins, enablers and practical experiences of crop diversification
- Innovations and incentives to promote diversification along value chains
- Breeding for crop diversification
- Approaches to assess the performance of diversified cropping systems at various scales
- Co-designing approaches that foster crop diversification and accompany actors when transitioning towards European sustainable systems
- Policy recommendations to make systems more disposed to crop diversification.
The conference programme included:
- Presentations from five keynote speakers with a wealth of knowledge and experience in agricultural and food system diversification
- Sixteen parallel sessions, covering all aspects related to crop diversification and touching on hot topics such as valuing crop diversification products and designing and optimising interspecific mixtures
- Five workshops addressing how to promote crop diversification across Europe, challenges in breeding for crop mixtures , technology for spatial crop diversity, value chains business models and policy recommendations to make agri-food systems more disposed to crop diversification.
The conference provided a unique opportunity for scientists, practitioners, policy makers and other actors along the supply chain to gather and exchange about crop diversification.
The conference, organized by DiverIMPACTS partner ÖMKI, was convened by the DiverIMPACTS project together with the other members of the Horizon 2020 Crop Diversification Cluster: Diverfarming, DIVERSify, ReMIX, LegValue and TRUE as well as the German programme INSUSFAR. The H2020 cluster on crop diversification was created with the objective to foster the co-design of technical, organisational and institutional innovations so that barriers to crop diversification can be overcome and diversified systems can be established and sustained.