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The first webinar and workshop of the BEATLES project will take place on 23 April from 10:00-12:15 CET. (Image source: BEATLES)

Organised by Q-PLAN International and SUSTAINABLE INNOVATIONS, the first webinar and workshop of the BEATLES project is scheduled to take place on 23 April this year

BEATLES is a Horizon Research & Innovation project funded by the European Union which aims to accelerate the systemic and systematic behavioural shift to climate-smart agriculture and smart farming technologies.

The webinar will begin with an introduction to the BEATLES project by the coordinator from the Agricultural University of Athens, Marilena Gemtou. Following this, project partner, Søren Marcus Pedersen will delve into 'Locks-in and levers for transition to sustainable food systems'. Simone Cerroni will then present findings on 'Farmers' preferences for subsidy schemes to promote methane emission reduction in the livestock sector', drawing from insights of the sister project VISIONARY. Concluding the webinar, Irina Popescu, a Food Policy officer at BEUC, will address consumer attitudes and initiatives like 'Put Change on the Menu'.

Moreover, an attractive workshop will be featured in the second part of the event, bringing together technical experts and stakeholders to collaboratively identify challenges and opportunities in transforming the food system. Attendees also have the opportunity to provide feedback on the presented research results and collectively explore strategies for advancing practices for climate-smart farming.

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To register for the project, visit: 

Seven out of 10 provinces in Zambia have been impacted by the intense drought. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Zambia falls prey to the worst draught it has seen in around 20 years, as widespread food shortages force children to survive on waterlily roots and wild fruits

As the El Niño passes through the region, leaving dry spells in its wake, a total of 10 provinces in Zambia have been impacted by intense draught, thereby urging the government to declare the situation a natioanl emergency. Zambia has gone nine consecutive weeks without a drop of rain, destroying nearly half of the nation's planted area.

Among those who have been hit the hardest include farming families that particularly rely on rain-fed agriculture to support the production of maize, the country’s principal food crop. Losses incurred by these families amount to around one million hectares from 2.2 million planted crops. 

Overall, the food crisis in Zambia is being exacerbated by a combination of factors including humanitarian funding, double digit inflation rate, and skyrocketing food and commodity prices. Global charity organisation, Save the Children is acknowleding the country's struggle by calling for child-sensitive government interventions such as introducing and scaling emergency school feeding programmes, to ensure that a nutritionally balanced meal to vulnerable children across all drought-affected communities. 

By collaborating with the government of Zambia, the organisation is attempting to assess the extent of the drought and are further supporting the Disaster Mitigation and Management Unit in the distribution of relief maize in some of the affected areas. Moreover, they will also be providing meals to school-going children in the worst affected areas. 

“Many hard-hit families are being forced to take desperate measures to cope with the crisis, such as reducing their daily meal intake, selling off livestock and foraging for hours each day for wild fruits, roots and nuts," said Save the Children country director in Zambia, Jo Musonda. “We are calling for urgent national and international action and funding to provide families and children with basic services including food and water.”

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ZeaKal's PhotoSeed technology improves the crop’s oil and sustainability profile without compromising yield or protein. (Image source: ZeaKal)

In an attempt to deliver higher energy corn, agritech company ZeaKal recently developed its new groundbreaking PhotoSeed technology to improve the oil and sustainability profile of the corn crop, without compromising its yield or protein

Upon immediate implementation of this technology, replicated field trials during the first year showed a significant 23% increase in corn oil composition. The technology was found to enhance the plant's photosynthetic capacity, capturing more CO2 and sunlight. This additional carbon capture increases oil production without taking away the energy necessary to maintain modern yields.

Just as in soybeans, nutrient and energy densification in PhotoSeed corn translates to more carbon captured in the seed. With higher oil production that does not require additional inputs or land, PhotoSeed becomes a sustainability embedded trait that has the potential to lower the carbon intensity score of the crop. 

In 2022, ZeaKal created a closed loop US system called the NewType model to capture and share premiums from better composition, processing advantages, and improved sustainability metrics with farmers and producers. Starting with its integration into Gro Alliance—the nation's largest, independently owned contract producer of seed corn and soybean seed—ZeaKal follows the model's success into the company's extensive germplasm collection, breeding programme, and fully integrated seed production. 

“The future of agriculture must be grounded in innovation that democratises value creation or else agriculture will not be responsive to demands for improved sustainability, nutrition, and energy,” said co-founder and CEO of ZeaKal, Han Chen. “Starting with the grower, our vision is to leverage trait technology and replicate our NewType model to ensure value creation and sharing across the entire supply chain.”

PhotoSeed corn commercialisation is expected in the 2027 growing season.

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The study highlights the potential of microbial nitrogen fertiliser to boost crop yields, while at the same time reducing dependency on synthetic fertilisers. (Image source: Pivot Bio)

A recent study conducted by the University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment found that using Pivot Bio PROVEN 40 as a replacement for 40 pounds of synthetic nitrogen, significantly increase corn yields, while also reducing reliance on synthetic fertiliser

Fields with cover crop rotations often experience nitrogen deficits. Applying microbial nitrogen in furrows can help bridge this nitrogen gap, thus resulting in higher yields. The nitrogen in this case, is delivered directly to the roots, avoiding competition with cover crop residue.

For the study, corn was planted at a rate of 32,000 seeds per acre under no-till and cover crop conditions with PROVEN 40 applied in furrow, along with additional nitrogen treatments of 140 and 180 pounds per acre. Corn yields were found to be similar across both nitrogen fertiliser rates. However, PROVEN 40 applied in furrow increased corn yields across both nitrogen rates.

Kentucky farmer, Richard Preston who collaborated with the university on the study, stated that PROVEN 40 had stood out as a game-changer on his farm this year, despite the minimal rainfall received during critical stages of growing. “Like all farmers, I care about protecting and preserving our natural resources for generations to come. In addition to no-till and cover crop practices, PROVEN 40 has helped me lower my environmental impact and increase yield — two key factors for meeting my sustainability goals,” Preston said. 

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The Vigne Plus System consists of particular accessories and a net designed to improve vineyard management from the get-go. (Image source: Arrigoni)

Leveraging on its experience in the design and production of agrotextiles for farming, agricovering solutions leader, Arrigoni has researched ad hoc forms of vineyard protection, patenting the innovative Vigne Plus System, a solution consisting of a net and accessories which increases the shading factor by between 23% and 25% while driving up production by up to 30

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