TOMRES project, tomatoes that save water and fertilisers
The European project TOMRES, a novel and integrated approach to increase multiple and combined stress tolerance in plants using tomato as a model, presented on 7 June 2017 at the University of Turin, is funded with six million euro under the Horizon 2020 programme.
The research focuses on tomato, one of the most cultivated crops in the world, present in nearly every country thanks to the fact that it is possible to protect the plants against extreme weather by growing them in greenhouses. Researchers, technical experts and farmers will work together to develop environmentally friendly tomato cropping systems with less impact on natural resources.
The three-year initiative, coordinated by the University of Turin, involves 10 European countries, 25 partners and 200 technical experts and researchers, as well as bringing together farms, industries, universities and research centres that will select climate-resilient tomato varieties, study the physiological and molecular processes of resilience, and perfect agronomic and precision techniques in open-field and greenhouse cultivation of tomato.
“The University of Turin once again plays a central role in a European project”, said the Rector Gianmaria Ajani, who added: “In particular, thanks to the skills of our researchers in biology, genetics and agriculture and the ability to integrate and standardize them, UniTo will pave the way for new and more sustainable farming techniques that are increasingly needed to address climate change and the depletion of natural resources and will coordinate a network of 24 research centres, industries and farms that believed in this project”.
The University of Turin is involved through three Departments (Agricultural, Forestry and Food Sciences; Life Sciences and Systems Biology; Public and Pediatric Health Sciences) which will focus on the role of strigolactones, recently discovered hormones that make it possible to enhance the growth and resilience to combined water and nutrient stress in plants, while maximizing water management in the cultivation of tomatoes with sustainable techniques and studying the economic aspects related to the use of sustainable agriculture methods.
“The cultivation of fruits and vegetables requires large amounts of water and fertilizers”, said Andrea Schubert, project coordinator and Professor at the Department of Agricultural, Forestry and Food Sciences, “but water is scarce, also due to climate change, while fertilizers are produced using a lot of energy, often non-renewable. An alternative exists. A lot can be done to produce healthy foods with sustainable techniques that reduce the consumption of limited and expensive resources. The University of Turin”, added the coordinator, “has today the opportunity to contribute, through a European research project, to a major turning point for agricultural sustainability aimed at obtaining tomatoes that consume less water and fertilizers. Thrifty tomatoes, we may say, but that doesn’t mean less healthy, juicy or tasty”.
The results of TOMRES, which will subsequently be transferred to other crops, will be collected in applications available to farmers and citizens to guide and inform them on the possibility of choosing tomatoes from sustainable agriculture for consumer awareness.