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For organic and sustainable agriculture, farmers must have access to high-quality organic seeds. Yet in Europe there is still a shortage of these kinds of seeds. In the LIVESEED project, the European Union wants to do something about this. “New breeding materials brought in by projects such as LIVESEED help reduce dependence on synthetic seed treatments through breeding varieties that are resistant to seed- and soil-borne diseases. This in turn enables more environmentally friendly cultivation,” the EU said in an interim report released yesterday on the project that was launched back in 2017.

This EU-funded project also looks at aspects of the market and the corresponding regulations. This includes a new quality strategy for organic seeds, a Europe-wide seed database and sustainable breeding techniques that are adapted to specific conditions.

Experts from 18 European countries are collaborating on the project, which also involves an overview of existing national databases on the availability of organic seeds. Since the seed that is to be used has to be adapted to local conditions, the scientists also wanted to see how the availability of organic varieties with specific characteristics could be broadened as well. These include, for instance, higher tolerance to stress, or resistance to pests and diseases.

Organic seed stock

“We are also developing a new strategy for the health of organic seed stocks and a roadmap for using only organic seeds by 2036,” said Project coordinator Ágnes Bruszik. “This strategy will take into account seed cultivation conditions and look at the maturation, microbiome and effect of sanitation treatments of organic seeds.”

The project team has also developed new experimental models for organic varieties that can be used in daily practice. This will allow farmers to test these themselves and see how they could be improved to adapt to local conditions.

It is expected that by 2030, about a quarter of all agricultural land in the EU will be used for organic agriculture. LIVESEED can help to meet this goal. “The benefits of this project for farmers include better access to a wider range of high-quality seeds, a more thorough knowledge of seed cultivation and an opportunity to test new or promising varieties in their native climatic conditions,” Bruszik said.

Also read other IO articles on sustainable agriculture by following this link.