Good practices for the cultivation and processing of alpine cereals and medicinal plants – CERALP
Lombardy is a region particularly rich in biodiversity, both as regards wild species and due to its species/varieties/breeds of agricultural and agri-food interest (agrobiodiversity). Despite this, according to a recent study conducted by the Ge.S.Di.Mont Research Center (University of Milan) and published in the scientific journal Biodiversity and Conservation (Giupponi et al. 2019), Lombardy has lost more than 78% of its traditional local cultivars (landraces) over the past 70-80 years.
Many of the landraces of Lombardy surveyed are cereals and pseudo-cereals. Of these, only four have been registered in the European Register of Conservation Varieties (Spinato di Gandino Corn, Rostrato Rosso Di Rovetta Corn, Scagliolo di Carenno Corn and Nero Spinoso Corn) and used as resources for starting up agri-food chains. These traditional and at the same time innovative supply chains, in addition to allowing the production of unique and eco-sustainable quality products, have made it possible to enhance the production area and create income for those involved in the supply chain (farmers, restaurateurs, shopkeepers) therefore counteracting the abandonment of mountain areas.
In addition to being rich in landraces, Lombardy is one of the main Italian regions that produces medicinal plants and which, in recent decades, has seen a 41% increase in companies operating in this sector (ISMEA 2013). Some of these farms are located in mountain areas simply because many officinal cultivated species are typical of mountain environments (e.g. Arnica montana, Gentiana lutea, Artemisia genipi). Moreover, recent studies have shown that some medicinal plants, cultivated at high altitude, are able to produce more secondary metabolites in response to the particular environmental conditions of the mountain territories (Pavlovic et al. 2019; Giorgi et al. 2014) hence improving the high quality of the products that can be obtained from them.
Therefore, activities for the dissemination of knowledge about cereal (and pseudocereal) landraces and officinal plants currently cultivated in Lombardy should be carried out to avoid loss of awareness, protect agrobiodiversity but also to encourage the creation of successful agri-food chains.
The CereAlp project
The CereAlp project aims to encourage good practices and knowledge concerning the cultivation/transformation of landraces of cereals and officinal plants in order to trigger new supply chains and promote youth entrepreneurship in the mountains. This will take place through dissemination (seminars / workshops) at the Ge.S.Di.Mont. headquarters, as well as through demonstrations at innovative companies. These activities will be aimed primarily at companies, workers and technicians in the Lombardy agri-food sector as well as young students and researchers who deal with agri-environmental subjects and, in particular, with cereal/pseudo-cereal landraces and/or medicinal mountain plants.
The dissemination and demonstration activities planned as part of the project will have many positive effects:
- allowing young people and all those interested in the cultivation/transformation of traditional cereals and medicinal herbs to know the characteristics (agronomic, phytochemical, nutritional, etc.) of these plants and the products deriving from them;
- improving knowledge of the good practices that allow their cultivation/transformation in mountain areas of Lombardy;
- integrating the priority area “Dissemination of good practices”, with the following secondary areas: “Dissemination of the results of the main research in the agricultural sector”, “Biodiversity, conditionality, greening”.
Lombardy Region - PSRLeader
Unimi - Ge.S.Di.Mont. Research CenterTeam
Prof.ssa Anna Giorgi; Prof. Roberto Pilu; Dott. Luca Giupponi