SOLIBAM – Strategies for Organic and Low-Input Breeding and Management

Low-input systems have the potential to reduce environmental impacts; however, the productivity of these systems is also lower, which limits their overall performance. Moreover, the crop varieties and production techniques used often originate from high-input systems. SOLIBAM aims to increase the performance of low-input systems by developing cropping systems adapted to low-input conditions.

SOLIBAM aims to develop novel breeding and management approaches that are adapted to low-input agriculture in Europe and Africa. Innovative solutions are intended to improve the performance, quality, sustainability and stability of low-input cropping systems. The project was based on the assumption that the key to developing more sustainable cropping systems is to increase ‘agricultural diversity', which is defined as a set of different biological entities that exist around humans. ‘Entity' in this context means not only species, but also varieties within species and individuals within varieties. Agricultural biodiversity was defined in the project as the sum of the differences between species, between varieties within species, and between individuals within varieties.

Agroscope's LCA Group evaluated the effectiveness of innovations that were developed in the project to reduce the environmental impacts of agricultural products. Eight pilot farms already implementing SOLIBAM practices were studied. The farmers in question cultivate heterogeneous populations of cereals and different groups of vegetables. Case studies covered four European countries: France, United Kingdom, Portugal and Italy. The research contained participatory elements: farmers received the LCA results and are able to provide feedback. The environmental impacts of products (bread and vegetables) from innovative farms were compared to those from "business-as-usual" scenarios representing average practices in the corresponding agro-ecological regions. In addition, various field experiments from Switzerland were studied.

Two other Agroscope research groups were involved in the SOLIBAM project. The ‘Plant-Soil Interactions' Group studied the effects of cover crops on the abundance of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. Researchers from the ‘Varieties and Seeds' Group were involved in variety trials and quality testing of grain.

Two other Agroscope research groups are involved in the SOLIBAM project. The ‘Plant-Soil Interactions' Group is studying the effects of cover crops on the abundance of beneficial mycorrhizal funghi. Researchers from the ‘Varieties and Seeds' Group are involved in variety trials and quality testing of grain.