Agronomic techniques and evolutionary populations

For us, GREAT Agriculture is a set of agronomic practices that in time will generate a stable, sustainable income-producing agroecosystem, operating over territories in a systematic way, to generate both well-being and a future

GREAT Agriculture is a vision of agriculture as a practice, capable of operating over farming territories taking into account all aspects in both an integrated and resilient manner: from biodiversity to healing relationships, from resource protection to the economy, in order to generate a sense of well-being and design a collective future.

A key concept of this vision is the promotion of field biodiversity, guaranteed through the adoption of evolutionary population practices, or planting a mixture of many different varieties of the same species. Research on evolutionary populations originated between 1920 and 1930 at the University of Davis in California and still continues to be the subject of scientific research in various Italian universities. Published literature on the subject shows how evolutionary populations are more productive, more disease resistant and more resistant to changes by external agents in comparison to uniform varieties. Moreover, the period of maturation is synchronized with the environment, thereby resulting in a more stable yield from one year to the next.

The practice of cultivation according to the principle of uniformity has been widespread for over fifty years, despite never having had a solid scientific basis. Particularly, in light of the challenges posed by climate change, the evolutionary populations show a greater potential in adapting to different climates precisely because the plants within them are different. Based on this diversity, they are able to adapt to the short-term and evolve in the long-term. As has been confirmed by farmers, this has resulted in extraordinary production stability from one year to the next.

This permits the restoration of biodiversity in agriculture, without resorting to chemical treatments for disease control, as evolutionary populations are naturally more resistant to pathogens, insects and weeds. Moreover, farmers who cultivate evolutionary populations can reuse the seed of the populations evolving in the field because they are more adaptable to the external conditions than standard commercial varieties.

Evolutionary populations of common wheat, durum wheat and barley arrived in Italy from Syria, in 2010, thanks to both the European project SOLIBAM and the Italian Association of Organic farming. It was discovered that the bread made with common wheat flour of evolutionary populations, consisting of 2000 types of wheat, could be consumed even by gluten intolerant individuals.  The same methodology, used in crops such as tomatoes, both dwarf and climbing beans, chickpeas and zucchini are showing an unexpected success.

We are only at the beginning of legally spreading these populations. The GREAT Life Project wants to support this growth in order to promote both a greater crop resilience to climate change and greater biodiversity in agriculture.