The aim of ASTER is to build up a management model for small tomato producers of the Mediterranean Basin based on the application of main agroecology principles such as:
1. the protection (conservation) and the enhancement of functional biodiversity both above and belowground, to increase and exploit the ecosystem services (protection, nutrition, pollination) in alternative to the use of external synthetic inputs
2. the sustainable control of main pests and pathogens to reduce the environmental impact of plant protection practices
3. the circularity of the production chain to approach the “zero waste” objective. The model will improve the resilience of this fundamental crop in the economy of all Mediterranean Basin countries where it can be grown in open field or in protected systems, during the entire annual season, particularly in small farms.
Four specific objectives (SO) and relative ways to realize them have been identified:
SO1 (WP1, WP6) Develop a two-way exchange of information between academic groups and stakeholders through an interactive platform
A preliminary version of the stakeholder Interactive Platform (SIP) has been already created to start the exchange of information between project partners and supporting these 19 stakeholders:
ITALY: Agroqualità, Coldiretti, Samagri, Sacco, NeoruraleHub
SPAIN: El Perello, Anecoop
PORTUGAL: COTHN, DGAV, Olhorta, Hortipor
TURKEY: Bioglobal, MTM Koop
MOROCCO: Enam RIAM
ALGERIA: Sarl Issers, Seybouse
about the main issues of tomato system in the different participating countries, with particular reference to the protection from key pests and pathogens. The platform will stimulate smallholder associations and their ability to interact with each other and with various actors of the food value chain and to deliver a high added-value product.
SO2 (WP2, WP3, WP4) Design field interventions to protect, enhance and exploit the functional biodiversity and plant defences for improving ecosystem services, resilience and sustainability
a combination of tools to support plant nutrition, plant health, plant protection and pollination will be tested on site (open field and protected crops) and in laboratory, including:
a) diversification of plant species (in-crop and border crop management)
b) diversification of soil microbiota
c) biological and bio-derived tools for plant protection and induction of resistance.
SO3 (WP5) Validate protocols for maximizing ecosystems services and resilience by considering their environmental, economic and social sustainability
a) combine plant protection and nutrition tools based on the enhancement of functional biodiversity and the induction of plant defences into innovative management strategies for improving the sustainability of tomato system in the Mediterranean Basin
b) assess the level of biodiversity ex ante and ex post aboveground (only in open field tomato crop) by targeting aboveground the hyper-diverse group of Hymenoptera (including pollinators and biocontrol agents that are main actors of ecosystem services) and belowground by targeting the main groups of symbionts and antagonists (mycorrhizal fungi, Trichoderma, Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria, entomopathogens) in soil microbiota
c) identify the costs, the benefits, the social and the environmental issues associated with the application of project model to be compared with those linked to the current management of tomato production in partners’ countries.
SO4 (WP1,WP6): To ensure effective coordination, communication dissemination and formation
coordination will be pursued by scheduled annual meetings and specific ones called on demand; active dissemination will rely on ALL consortium members and supporter stakeholders starting from the Interactive Platform (SIP) (as clearly stated in the support letters received); an open science approach will be adopted using a divertsified terminology adapted in respect to the target audience; a project page will be created on the web media with differential levels of access (public, confidential) and on the main social networks; didactic farms, on-site meetings and digital courses are scheduled to train local farmers targeting mainly young and women ones.