Place: Not Applicable, _NO_MAIN_REGION
Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products
Total Budget: € 7.820.956,00 | Period: From January 2010 To December 2014


SOLIBAM is seeking to enhance the potential genetic diversity at crop and farm level to stabilise organic and low-input farming systems and enable adaptation to environmental changes.


National Institute for Agronomic Research - INRA - France

Lead applicant

INRA missions are: - To combine scientific excellence and the social objectives of research; - To produce and disseminate scientific knowledge; - To develop innovations and know-how for the benefit of society; - Through its expertise, to inform decision-making by public and private sector players; - To develop scientific and technical culture and participate in the science/society debate; - To contribute to training in and through research.

Technical Institute for Organic Agriculture - France

Initiative partner

ITAB is the French Technical Institute of Organic Farming. ITAB coordinates research and technical activities carried out in the field of organic farming, to i) link up stakeholders of the organic faming network, ii) assess research programmes and experiments, and iii) inform farmers and advisers about research results and technical knowledge. ITAB is a member of the ECO-PB (European Consortium for Organic Plant Breeding) board and a member of EUCARPIA.

Italian Association for Organic Agriculture - Italy

Initiative partner

AIAB is an association of producers, technicians and consumers. It is the networking of the organic movement and represents primarily the interests of organic producers, through the promotion of organic agriculture as a sustainable development model, based on the principles of conservation and exploitation of resources, the environment, animal welfare and consumers' health. Organic farming is, in fact, a model of development for the Italian countryside alternative to '"industrial agriculture", capable of addressing the ecological sense in the behavior of market participants and the general public. In particular, AIAB approaches focus on the method of production and consumption, on the interests of organic producers affecting the interests of citizen-consumers and on methods to enhance the role and function of technicians specialized in organic farming.

SOLIBAM is a research programme combining many disciplines and values with the aim of increasing diversity at multiple levels of agricultural production, from genetic aspects to environmental and socio-economical dimensions to increase yield, stability of yield and quality. SOLIBAM has designed and tested innovative strategies to develop plant breeding approaches integrated with management practices to improve sustainability and performance within organic and low-input systems, in their diversity in Europe and taking into account small-scale farms in Africa, mostly in Ethiopia. The project has developed participatory research and transdisciplinary tools to improve understanding and management of complexity. Moreover, SOLIBAM provided recommendations about seed laws evolution to promote and allow the marketing of heterogeneous varieties and enhance farmers’ rights, towards and integrated seed system.

The SOLIBAM project has developed several plant breeding strategies to increase diversity - within species and intra-species – so as to enhance sustainability and develop robust crops for coping with climate change.

The idea is to have different varieties adapted to different agricultural contexts – from social, agronomical, environmental, cultural and economic point of view – rather than trying to adapt the environment to a few commercial varieties through the use of external inputs.

SOLIBAM partners proved that it is possible to re-engage breeding with diversity, overcoming the Plant Breeding Paradox (that “plant breeding has been undermining the very genetic basis on which it rests” (Gepts, 2006)), by re-engaging breeding with diversity at professional and stakeholder levels.

Beside formal seed system, participatory plant breeding, in all its forms and definitions, can increase cultivated diversity in time and space, through a decentralised and participatory research system.

An overview of SOLIBAM Veronique Chable - scientist at INRA and SOLIBAM coordinator - explains why SOLIBAM is important and the research performed by the SOLIBAM team.

The SOLIBAM project has been carried out within the context of a lack of adapted varieties to organic and low inputs farming systems, which are characterized by a wide range of variability within the farming system and environmental variation.

Specific adaptation to these environments and to diverse practices associated to these systems should therefore be considered during breeding activities, not only from an agronomic and biological point of view, but also from a social and economic perspective.

For example, organic farmers in most cases have developed different end-use processes relying on local or direct sales.

In this framework, many farmers and consumers aimed to connect again food and culture through traditional and innovative food processes.

All these requirements should be considered in crop breeding programmes, not only to increase production, stability of yields and quality but also to address the breeding per management interaction, as done within the SOLIBAM project.

Shaping the future of agriculture: the point of view of Devra Jarvis Devra Jarvis - scientist at Bioversity International - explains the importance of diversity and participatory research in agriculture.

SOLIBAM has developed various kinds of innovations, which are at the core of its strategies of diversity for sustainability and quality:

  • new approaches to plant breeding and management practices (PPBM), which simultaneously consider diversity and quality, performance and stability, co-breeding for intercropping, or crop-pollinator interactions;
  • new food or traditional produce with improved quality properties;
  • new tools for PPBM in which farmers, researchers and other stakeholders designed together:
  1. breeding methods;
  2. tools for resource and trial management;
  3. integrating methodologies to better select for tasty products;
  • social innovation and collective action for decentralised and participatory research;
  • new modelling tools to better understand and assess resilience, viability and sustainability of farms;
  • new propositions for policy makers so as to adapt seed regulations to accommodate diversified varieties besides formal system

SOLIBAM has organized research within local networks improving the efficiency of innovation systems where researchers co-produce knowledge in continuous interaction with other stakeholders (e.g farmers, bakers, millers and consumers), developing processes of mutual learning.

The collective organization allows improving farmers’ autonomy and ability to manage seed multiplication and on farm conservation.

SOLIBAM has also accompanied a changing situation in Europe regarding seed laws, participating in negotiations with DG SANCO and AGRI in order to allow the marketing of more diversity, e.g. local varieties, farmers’ varieties, populations and heterogeneous materials, and has contributed to the drafting of the new regulation.

That policy aspect is very relevant for Southern countries that are adopting a seed law model  that replicates the European system without any changes or attempts to adapt the regulations to their needs and social/agricultural systems.

An overview about PPB from Salvatore Ceccarelli Salvatore Ceccarelli, scientist at ICARDA and one WP leader of SOLIBAM, explains the importance of PPB.
SOLIBAM SOLIBAM - Agricultural biodiversity in Europe and Africa from tradition to innovation.

The SOLIBAM partnership was designed to tackle the challenge posed by the necessity to gather all needed competences required to achieve the ambitious objectives of the project and at the same time not to scatter resources with a too large number of participating organisations.

The initiative gathered universities (Perugia, Pisa, Mekelle, Munich Universities, RISO-DTU Technical University of Denmark, Escola Superior Agraria de Coimbra, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa), research centers (INRA, The Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, Institut Technique de l’Agriculture Biologique, Instituto de Tecnologia Quimica e Biologica, Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible, Agricultural Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Food and Resource Economics, Agroscope), farmers' associations (AIAB and CNOP) and professional breeders (Gautier Semences, ARCOIRIS, Saatzucht Donau, Agrovegetal) and management companies (INRA Transfert).

SOLIBAM team The photo of the SOLIBAM team.

The major exciting challenge facing SOLIBAM is showing that organic and low-input systems can be improved by breeding new varieties and populations of crops used in local management methods, integrating farmers’ innovations and experience.

The project also aims to promote local consumption, ensuring that communities are sustained by the foods they produce, contributing to high quality food and better health.

The main obstacles have been from a legal point view because at the moment in Europe the seeds of diversified varieties cannot be marketed.

SOLIBAM has contributed to change the situation in Europe regarding seed laws, participating in negotiations with DG SANCO and AGRI in order to allow the marketing of more diversity, e.g. local varieties, farmers’ varieties, populations and heterogeneous materials, and has contributed to the drafting of the new regulation.

Besides all activities dealing with the enhancement of cultivated diversity by breeding and crop management studies, we have also considered a number of innovative farms, which aim to reduce inputs and incorporate a diversity of crops and varieties.

They focus on supporting local food supply systems. These are innovative sustainable strategies where products and processes for the food supply system are based on PPBM (Participatory Plant Breeding and Management) and on diversity at all levels.

We have analyzed farms that are representing a fundamentally different way of producing and distributing food compared to the dominating practices, which are conventional agricultural production and supermarket mass distribution of the produce.

Local consumption would in turn save energy and money on transportation and export costs as well as creating jobs and wealth in these rural areas.

SOLIBAM project supported the work carried on by different networks and bodies in different countries.

For that the results have strengthened these organizations that will continue to work on the SOLIBAM topics at local level in the following years.

SOLIBAM has reinforced these networks and the mutual trust between different stakeholders: this is the most long lasting result that will allow further collaboration in the future.

The SOLIBAM partnership composed of different actors (science bodies, farmers’ organisations, technical centres, private companies) allowed to talk with different people and to reach many target groups and stakeholders.

SOLIBAM had an integrated dissemination plan, that covered not only scientific but also popular targets with different tools appropriated to each target.

SOLIBAM produced project newsletters, website, dedicated Facebook page, booklets, articles, videos and radio programmes.

In particular, Farm days are designed to be an innovative tool for the dissemination of the project outcomes amongst farmer’s communities and other stakeholders in each country.

They are held each year, to enable breeders, farmers, extension services and researchers involved in SOLIBAM to share their skills, information, and knowledge also with non-participating farmers.

The new communication tools used by SOLIBAM (video, radio and facebook) are very promising for reaching large audience.