- Europe and Central Asia
Sectors of activity
Agricultural and Fishery, Environmental Services, Water
Type of initiative
Capacity Building & Implementation, Research, Analysis, Assessment
Type of lead actor
The EU is the world’s leading producer of beet sugar, with around 50% of the global production, with over 1.8 million hectares, 145 thousand growers and around 17 million tonnes of sugar produced in 2017 (CEFS 2019; EU 2018). In addition, the sugar sector which exported about 8% of the production created 28 thousand direct jobs and many other dependent jobs in the sugar been processing sector upstream (farm machinery, agricultural inputs) and downstream (food processing, wholesale, retail, transport, logistics).
However, this dynamic sector is facing so many challenges which could weaken its bases and threatens its sustainability. The most important of these issues is climate change with its drastic impacts on yields and resources. Indeed, the scorching weather that dried farmland across Europe in summer 2018 has stressed sugar beet crops and curbed the harvest and reduced the supply which hardly covered the internal demand (Trompiz and Hogan 2018).
Furthermore, the sugar sector needs to meet the global SDG and make it a more sustainable sector, which [beside being economically viable] generates positive environmental externalities, creates wealth and improves health of the EU societies becoming aware of their environment to generate different services.
Therefore, Timac Agro Italia S.p.A. will use its expertise in plant nutrition and will mobilise its research infrastructure to support Italian sugar beet growers creating innovative products which would be integrated in an equilibrated nutrition plan for the following objectives:
• Improve the extractable sugar yield.
• Maximise positive externalities and reduce the negative externalities generated along the growing cycle.
• Increase growers’ well-being.
• Assess the sector performance under climate change scenarios.
Once conceived, these products will be tested on-field to compare on a life cycle basis the outputs under different growing conditions (Conventional vs good management practice; conventional vs organic; traditional nutrition vs innovative nutrition plan) and simulating the impacts under climate change scenarios.
The research will be divided on three different parts. The first one consists of conceiving an innovative technology to improve the nutrition of sugar beet for qualitative and quantitative outputs; and will take place in the laboratories of Roullier Group, which are world leading laboratories in plant and animal nutrition with numbers of EU registered patents. The second part builds on the framework suggested by El Chami and Daccache (2015) to quantify sustainability of agricultural systems under climate variability. The suggested methodology has proved to be efficient for such analysis and is based on the integration on a system-based approach of outputs from a general circulation model (GCM), a crop growth model, a life cycle assessment (LCA) and an economic model. The adopted framework will be able to compare conventional sugar beet production versus good management practices versus organic production, with and without innovative technologies. The final part involves field implementation and demonstration for extension purposes and will involve publication of results on the “oneplanetnetwork” portal and other media adopted to increase the research impact.
Impact and Results
For the first time, we will have the cost-effectiveness – on a life cycle – of sugar beet production with quantitative assessment of ecosystem services generated for different production practices, with impact assessment under climate change scenarios. The practices will be divided as follows:
• Conventional production vs good management practices
• Conventional vs organic production
• Irrigated (with different water levels) vs rainfed
• Conventional nutrition vs Innovative technological
• Simulation of different climate change scenarios
Next steps and how to get involved
Given the importance of sugar beet for the EU countries, and given the innovative research framework, any initiative for collaboration with other member states would be welcomed to compare different case studies and assess their sustainability. Collaboration will help also in wider dissemination of results