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Inno4Grass stimulates grassland innovation
The European Inno4Grass project brings together 20 partners from eight countries to give a boost to grassland innovation. Christian Huyghe, Scientific Director Agriculture at INRA, is coordinating the participation of INRA teams for this project, including the head of the Regional Scientific and Technical Information team in Poitou-Charentes. The seminar to kick off the project was held in Berlin from 14 to 16 February 2017.
Ruminant livestock farming is a major economic activity in Europe, where a large proportion of grasslands are used exclusively for grazing. In 2013, nearly 4.5 million farms turned out their animals to graze in the 28 countries of Europe. However, grassland innovation has been slow for various reasons. Grazing systems are complex and are an integral part of animal production systems. The benefits of innovation are visible only in the long term and must combine all three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. Additionally, interaction between basic research and agricultural practices is limited.
Connecting the dots between agricultural practices and research
Inno4Grass aims to reduce the gaps between research and agricultural practices. It also plans to promote innovative systems with productive grasslands to improve farm profitability while protecting the environment. Over the course of three years, eight countries will be focused on European grasslands: Germany (coordinator), Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. In France, the Institut de l’élevage, several Chambers of Agriculture and INRA are all involved.
INRA will oversee the information management system
The project will gather innovative practices from farms (via interviews with 170 innovative farmers, 85 detailed case studies, stakeholder networks and online sources); foster development, training, research and partnerships between farm associations; and work with organisations with considerable reach to widely disseminate knowledge and innovations. A comprehensive knowledge base on grasslands will be created, with specific details pertaining to local conditions. A tool with an information management system component will be developed to enable all information obtained from the studied farms to be collected and exploited for the knowledge base. INRA is responsible for overseeing its creation, which will rely on Agrosyst.
Additionally, Inno4Grass will outline methods to share innovative ideas from farms, compare them with scientific data and create synergy between agricultural practices. At least 100 data sheets on practices and 100 videos describing innovations will be published. Participatory approaches such as Wikimedia (an open-access content management system) and dedicated events like the awarding of trophies should help farmers integrate innovations into their practices even after the project ends.