Legumes - transition paths to sustainable legume-based farming systems and agri-feed and food chains
Thanks to their nitrogen-fixing properties, leguminous plants contribute to soil fertility and have a positive impact on the environment. Additionally, legumes are a critical source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe, as well as for livestock. In both areas, fertilisers and protein crops, the EU has developed strong dependencies. On one hand, nitrogen fertiliser consumption in the EU27 is about 10 million tonnes per year with an import share of 20-26% over the past four years. The production of nitrogen fertilisers is highly dependent on natural gas and the EU imported 62% of its overall gas energy needs in 2006-2010. On the other hand, 70% of protein-rich raw materials consumed in the EU are imported (42 million tonnes in 2009). Compared with other major agricultural regions in the world, the EU dedicates a relatively small area to legume crops and this has even decreased in recent decades. With regard to the potential ecosystem services delivered by legumes, there has been an increasing demand to strengthen the role of legumes in farming systems and agri-food/feed chains to meet agronomic, environmental and economic objectives.
Activities will be aimed at developing sustainable legume-based farming systems and agri-feed and food chains in the EU. Projects will use case studies based on representative networks of farms which integrate legumes in their cropping systems and grasslands to explore the potential of legume production and the development of value chains for food and feed, taking into account complementarities between or within regions. Proposals will cover the diversity of available legume species and pedo-climatic conditions across Europe. The impacts of the potential development of legumes on other crops and on the delivery of eco-system services at regional, EU and global levels will be assessed. Proposals will analyse path dependency and lock-ins constraining the development of legumes in the EU in relation to the various actors and issues involved (e.g. farms, cooperatives, the feed industry, the food chain, supply chains, institutions, policies and trade agreements). Projects are expected to cover both conventional and organic sectors. They will develop transition paths that aim to lift identified constraints on sustainable legume-based agri-feed and food chains. Activities will involve transdisciplinary research, including input from social sciences and the humanities, to engage actors in developing the production and use of legumes, including market aspects. Proposals should fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach' and ensure adequate involvement of the farming sector.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
- development of sustainable legume-based cropping and grassland systems and agri-food and feed chains;
- increased the competitiveness of legume crops from farm to agri-food and feed chains;
- reduced environmental impacts of agricultural activities (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution);
- integrated scientific support for relevant EU policies (Common Agricultural Policy, Water Framework Directive, climate change objectives); and
- strengthening of transdisciplinary research and long-lasting implementation of the results through the implementation of the multi-actor approach.