Marco Bertaglia

Organisation : European Commission, Joint Research Centre
Category : Government
Region : Europe and Central Asia
What are, or should be, the main characteristics of agroecological innovations ? (sentences or key words) : Agroecology should be the *joint* and simultaneous application of *all* ecological principles: that's the specific approach.

Approaches as permanent soil cover, with no-till, preservation of spontaneous vegetation, polycoltures, etc. are not novel, they are known and proven. Yet, they may be construed as 'innovations' because they are not widespread or mainstream.

Within these proven practices, there is scope for specific innovations, e.g.:
- adapted tools and machinery that are as much as possible hand-driven, pushed or pulled, maybe with "bike tractors" or similar, and that are adapted to e.g. planting / seeding without soil labour and in no-till systems, with thick hay or straw mulch, or adapted to polyculture, including for harvesting in crops that are not monoculture;
- locally selected / preserved seed, self-produced by farmers (importantly, breeding/selection should focus on the population NOT the individual, one of the mistakes of past genetic improvement programmes)
- new planting /trasplanting / management protocols for e.g. wider-spaced cereals for maximum stems per plant
- improved companion planting taking into consideration spontaneous and cultivated plants
- improved in-the-field composting approaches
- innovative arrangements of production / marketing of products in mixed farms with very extensive husbandry practices which e.g. leaves more of say milk to offspring and only use a fraction of all milk produced in lactation, with livestock using less land than today, only in areas not competing for food production for human consumption.
Why are these characteristics important for agroecological transitions to sustainable food systems ? : Agroecology should be a complete paradigm shift from both conventional industrial agriculture and mainstream organic farming, abandoning the concept of 'applying practices' and shifting to whole-system (re)design, from farm to fork, considering all steps along the chain, and adopting nature-based solutions and mimicking nature at all stages of productions, transformation, distribution and consumption of food and other biomass.

Sustainability cannot be achieved if agriculture keeps using so much mechanisation and fossil fuel. Some of it will probably still be necessary, yet it should be reduced to a bear minimum. Some of the approaches required are quite difficult, and require the development of adapted tools, machinery, varieties, etc.