The SAAFE project, Soil quality Assessment in Agriculture For life cycle assessment-based Eco-design, aims to tackle the lack of accounting for land use impacts on soil quality in environmental footprints. It will provide a turnkey method within Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based on a set of models integrating the interdisciplinary research advances. To benefit from this up-to-date research and to learn from renowned researchers, I aim to go to James Cook University, where there are rich knowledge and unique modelling groups on tropical soil processes. I will then bring back operational knowledge to Europe, where the gap in methods is still hampering the development of environmental footprint regulations, which concern a growing number of imported tropical products. Such scientific and operational developments are critical to improve the diagnostic power of LCA and ensure that LCA-based eco-designed practices enable soil functions’ resilience, hence sustainability. I will coordinate the project together with two extraordinary supervisors, A/Prof. Nelson and Dr. Perret, who have remarkable experiences in tropical soil sciences and LCA of agricultural systems, respectively, and are undeniable references in terms of project coordination and student supervision. I will also develop a complete personal career development plan along the project in order to overcome my scientific and skill gaps and surpass me. Rich from these collaborations and the experience gained through this ambitious project, I aim to move to the next stage in my career and become an internationally recognised research director. I will then build an ambitious new research programme in ecosystem services modelling and environmental assessments, combining research projects and an excellence training network to train young researchers and enhance capacity building exchanges. I also hope to become an influential expert providing advices to policy makers and contributing to make an impact for the society.
Bananas are major staple in developing countries and the most eaten fruit in Europe. Global banana production is constrained by several diseases that are responsible for yield losses and low productivity of bananas and severely compromise food security. Particularly banana production is seriously threatened by four vascular diseases, Fusarium wilt disease of banana caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Foc), Moko and banana blood diseases, caused by Ralstonia solanacearum and R. syzygii subsp. celebesensis, respectively) and Xanthomonas wilt of banana caused by Xanthomonas vasicola pv. musacearum. Efficiency of surveillance and plant disease management requires the availability of Point of care (POC) diagnostics that can be operated directly on site. INDICANTS project focuses on (i) the development of a low-cost multi-pathogens LAMP (Loop-mediated isothermal amplification) detection kit, and its validation via an interlaboratory test and field surveys. (ii) the evaluation of an emergent technology (CRISPR/Cas12a) for the diagnosis of Foc. (iii) the test of an innovative microneedle patch for DNA extraction from plant. This project relies on a two-way transfer of knowledge and expertise between the applicant and Stellenbosch University: the applicant will access to areas where the diseases are present, will acquire through hands-on training and training-through-research, new expertise and skills in genetics/biotechnology, thereby strengthening the future career prospects. The partner organisation will gain experience and knowledge on bacterial banana diseases and LAMP method. Actions of protection and exploitation of the outputs will be set up, with the involvement of an industrial partner. Besides the scientific publications and conferences, the results will be disseminated to different audiences: the general public (website, press and TV), plant protection services (workshops) MSc students (lectures), schoolchildren (Platform visits).
Crop diversity is a key resource for smallholder farmers in drylands, as it plays a major role in their resilience by stabilizing crop production in the face of climate variability. Although access to crop diversity is pivotal for these farmers, the processes driving access are not fully understood. Previous research indicates that access to crop diversity may rely on the social networks through which crop seeds and information are diffused. These networks display a wide diversity of patterns, including differences in the composition of the actors involved and in the structure of the pathways through which seeds and information diffuse. Understanding the consequences of these different network patterns for crop diversity and their implication for farm resilience is a crucial and timely challenge. In this project, I will address this challenge by combining theory and methods from agroecology and social network research to tackle three objectives: (1) identify the most critical network patterns to maintain high crop diversity on farms over time or to change crops, (2) assess the relation between network patterns and temporal stability of crop production at the farm level, and (3) assess how farmers socioeconomic characteristics affect their access to seed and information. To reach these objectives, I will (i) design a standardized protocol to collect longitudinal and panel data across three dryland areas in Africa, which could serve as a reference for future studies, (ii) build an innovative simulation model combining agent-based and network approaches, and (iii) develop new statistical methods for network analysis. This project will enable a major advance in our understanding of the processes driving farmers access to crop diversity and their resilience. By doing so, it will contribute to improve decision-making for smallholder farmers adaptation to increased climate variability in drylands.