Swiss Agroscope strengthens System Research and researches more with Practice

Agroscope’s new Work Programme for 2022 to 2025 takes up the many and varied challenges of the agriculture and food sector. To develop solutions for a productive and sustainable farming sector, Agroscope is increasingly guided by the principles of agroecology, whose aim is to structure agriculture in a more ecologically, economically and socially sustainable manner. Agroscope is also strengthening system research, and increasingly co-creating research with farmers.

The agriculture and food sector faces major challenges. Among others, these include climate change, protecting the air, soil, water and biodiversity, and providing a healthy diet to a growing population. Agroscope’s 2022–2025 Work Programme takes up these challenges. Encompassing over 100 projects, the Work Programme has six core themes: agriculture in a changing climate; protecting natural resources; developing agroecological production systems; cost-efficient and species-appropriate animal husbandry; a sustainable and healthy food; a competitive food production.

Reducing trade-offs

Today’s agricultural production and food systems are rife with trade-offs, for example between productivity and environmental impacts. «We are looking for solutions to reduce these trade-offs, whilst bearing in mind that producers need to generate a high enough income, and that they make an important contribution to food security» states Head of Agroscope Eva Reinhard.

Guided by the principles of agroecology

Agroscope’s new Work Programme is increasingly guided by the principles of agroecology (fao.org/agroecology/). Agroecology aims to use a holistic approach to structure agriculture and food systems in an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable manner. This involves a wide range of varieties and cropping systems, resource efficiency, and making use of synergies, e.g. through symbioses between fungi and plants. Closing nutrient cycles is also important. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) sees agroecology as providing major opportunities for achieving the UN’s sustainability targets.

Researching within the system and with practice

In future, Agroscope will be focusing strongly on system research: Problems will be investigated in an interdisciplinary fashion throughout the entire agriculture and food sector, e.g. in collaboration with farmers as well as consumers. Knowledge is increasingly developed in co-creation with stakeholders along the value chain. «We don’t want just to research for practice, but also with practice» says Eva Reinhard. This happens inter alia at the new experimental stations inaugurated by Agroscope in 2021. There, together with the cantons, farmers, extension, sectoral associations, and often with SMEs as well, Agroscope develops solutions for an agriculture and food sector with a bright future.

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