ASTER consortium in the different regions/countries will keep a balance in the sex and/or gender of the stakeholders that will be included in the socioeconomic analysis and tailor communication channels and information material based on their specific needs. For field activities, ASTER partners will be supported by local stakeholders (see stakeholder list below). For method details, please see relative WP descriptions
1. Coordination and Management – WP leader: Emilio Guerrieri (P1) – Participant: ALL. This WP will cover all the relevant coordination and management tasks. It includes: organizing kick off, annual, final and on-demand meetings preferring as much as possible web platforms to contribute to the reduction of costs; management of the Stakeholder Interactive Platform (SIP); management of communication among the consortium with the leaders of all research units and WPs and with PRIMA Foundation; management of the new knowledge generated by the project by ensuring that the Intellectual Property Rights are properly managed to maximize the institutional, scientific and economic benefits; set up of common protocols for all experimental activities (CPRA). The coordinator presides all committees (see section 3 for details) and mantains regular communication with the leaders of all research units (by email, ideocall or telephone), to discuss the progress of research activities and to deal with difficulties or problems that may arise. The coordinator will provide guidelines and set deadlines for the presentation of financial and scientific reports and will maintain regular communication with the PRIMA Foundation. Data will be shared on project webpage and/or on cloud systems with selective access to partners and public. Delays in the scheduled activities will be analysed and justified, and actions to solve problems will be taken (see also the section relative to risks). Data resulting from the project will be treated as confidential. The laboratories involved in the present project will follow the rules for Good Laboratory Practice (GLP).
2. Functional biodiversity belowground: Isolating, characterizing and testing soil beneficial microbes – WP leader: Sonia Labidi (P11). Participants: P1, P2, P4, P6, P8, P9, P12, P13, P14, P15 Main target microbiota: PGPR, AMF, antagonist fungi (Trichoderma), entomopathogens (Beauveria, Isaria). Collections of AMF, nitrogen fixing bacteria and phosphate solubilizing bacteria stimulating plant yield under field conditions are available at P2, P11, P13 and P15. Additional microbiota will be isolated from soil samples (including roots) and trap plants collected from tomato fields in Algeria, Italy, Morocco, Portugal and Tunisia. Integrated characterization of soil microbiota will adopt morphological, biochemical and molecular approaches, the latter including pyrosequencing of main taxonomic genes. Biodiversity indexes for target microbiota will be calculated for each sampled area ex ante and ex post. Plant growth-promotion traits in response to the presence of selected native and/or commercial microbial species/strains and consortia will be assessed. Specific species/strains and consortia will be preliminary tested in laboratory to select those to be tested in the field for their effect on plant protection against abiotic and biotic stresses (these latter as indicated by stakeholders). The level of plant damage, the development of pest and pathogens, the behaviour and the performance of selected antagonists as individuated following stakeholders suggestions will be recorded.
3. Functional biodiversity aboveground: Characterization, enhancement and protection of aboveground biodiversity – WP leader: Alberto Urbaneja (P5). Participants: P1, P3, P4, P6, P7, P8, P9, P10, P11, P12, P14 Insect biodiversity: i) trapping Hymenoptera (parasitoids, pollinators) ex ante and ex post (only open field) in all countries; ii) integrative characterization of collected specimens; iii) calculation of biodiversity indexes.Plant biodiversity: intercropping and bordercropping with selected plant species and mixtures as discussed with stakeholders for their functional traits, for contrasting weeds and for enhancing nutrients uptake and biomass. Their effect on plant growth-promotion traits, protection against light and moderate drought, protection against selected biotic stresses, attraction and performance of antagonists and pollinator biodiversity will be recorded. Biological control: testing in laboratory, field and protected crops selected antagonist species and release protocols (single/multiple introductions, timing, punctiform/randomized); preliminary tests include the use of bumblebees for the dispersion of antagonistic fungi (P1)
4. Natural derived compounds: Selecting tools for the sustainable protection/nutrition – WP leader: Farida Benzina (P13). Participants: P1, P3, P4, P5, P6, P7, P10, P12, P13, P14, P15. Essential oils (EO) and Hydrolates (H): building dose response curves of EO and H on pest/pathogen mortality and on antagonists’ attractiveness under different water regimes. Bioderived metabolites: building dose response curves of bioderivate compounds on pest/pathogen mortality and on antagonists’ attractiveness. Crop residues: measuring the effect of compost from different crops and biochar on soil chemical parameters, plant growth traits and plant protection from selected soil borne pathogens. Crop residues will be evaluated also as substrates for producing biopesticides.
5 – Implementation: creating and testing an operating protocol – WP leader: George Broufas (P6). Participants: ALL. Field trials arranged in randomized blocks will be set up for evaluating the effects of a strategy implementing all tools and solutions elaborated in WP2, WP3, and WP4 in terms of productivity and quality of fruits. Harvest quantity and quality produced following ASTER protocol will be evaluated and compared to to those obtained following conventional management protocols in each country (P2). For forage production, the newly produced biomass per plant and surface will be measured. All other cultivation practices if not clearly specified will follow the common management protocols of relative country. Field trials will be performed in Algeria (P12, P13), Italy (P1, P3), Grece (P6, P7, P8), Morocco (P14, P15), Portugal (P4), Spain (P5), Tunisia (P10, P11) and Turkey (P9). ASTER will assess the economic, social and environmental impact of proposed model from the beginning with stakeholders via SIP. Interviews and questionnaires will be completed during the entire duration of the project following the ongoing application of ASTER protocols and its effect on product quality/quantity, on costs and benefits for small farmers, on environment stability and health. The project will also lead to new products for different markets whose value/impact will be calculated (P3)
6 – Uptake and dissemination: generate and enhance the impact of the project through active communication, dissemination and formation – WP leader: José Carlos Franco (P4). Participants: ALL. In many Countries, the agroecological approach is virtually unknown as they are the benefits it brings to conservation, resilience and sustainability of an important commercial crop (tomato). In Maghreb, main target of dissemination/formation activities will be the young and women farmers. Therefore, the project will give particular importance to the transfer of adapted technologies through the creation of small-scale rural firms. The collaboration between non-governamental organizations working on agriculture sustainability and rural women, especially operating in small farmers, will facilitate the dissemination of the model developed by ASTER. Communication and dissemination activities include the production of digital and paper media available in the languages of all participating countries that will be distributed to a wide range of end users (stakeholders, governmental bodies, primary and secondary schools, universities). Interviews and Lectures are scheduled for presenting the project, its results, and for bringing awarness to the themes of agroecology, climatic change, sustainability in agriculture. Presentations to National and International congresses and workshops are also scheduled. Formation activities include the organization of on-site training courses (all video recorded) targeting farmers in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and the installation of permanent didactic farms in Greece (P7) and Morocco (P14).