Geneticists have obtained 1,200 new varieties of wheat, more resistant to climate change, thanks to the collaboration with Ethiopian farmers: traditional culture and the most advanced research on plants met in two researches, both published in the journal of the Society for the advancement of science in the United States, PNAS. Both studies speak Italian, thanks to the contribution of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna of Pisa with its Research Center in Plant Sciences, and have developed a method to accelerate the production of more resistant and productive plants, thanks to the experience of Ethiopian highland farmers.
The first study, coordinated by Scuola Sant’Anna, was conducted in collaboration with the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (Ethiopia), Bioversity International and the Department of Biosciences of the University of Milan (Italy); the second is instead coordinated by Bioversity International. Both researches demonstrate that approaches able to integrate genetic, climatic information and farmers’ traditional knowledge are the key to increasing the sustainability of agriculture and food security in the Global South.
The selection made it possible to identify new types of wheat with greater adaptability and productivity and, thanks to the collaboration with local farmers, proved to have more than double the accuracy of that performed by technicians and researchers. “Ethiopia’s wheat represents an enormous wealth, developed over the centuries by local farmers” notes Matteo Dell’Acqua, professor of agricultural genetics at the Sant’Anna School and coordinator of the Research Center in Plant Sciences.
The research was conducted as part of the AfricaConnect project, a special program of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna which aims to unite the social sciences and experimental sciences with the aim of supporting sustainable development in Africa. Enrico Pe’, involved in AfricaConnect, notes that “it is thanks to transdisciplinary methods that combine climate science, genetics, agronomy, and social sciences that it is possible to have a lasting impact on the lives of farmers in emerging countries” .
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