Georgofili World

Newsletter of the Georgofili Academy

In the mind of plants

It is not easy to be a plant. Try to imagine how difficult it is to survive in an adverse environment without being able to move. Imagine you are a plant surrounded by insects, herbivores, predators of all sorts. Moreover, you cannot escape. The only way to survive is to be indestructible, to be entirely different from an animal. In other words, to be a plant. 
To escape the problems of predation, plants have evolved by following a unique and unusual path. They have developed solutions so different from those produced by animals as to become, in our eyes, an example of diversity. They are organisms so different from us animals that they could even be aliens. Many of the solutions developed by plants are the exact opposite of those produced by the animal world. 
What is white in animals, is black in plants and vice versa: animals move, plants are still; animals are fast, plants slow; animals consume, plants produce; animals produce CO2, plants fix it, continuing up to the final difference. The most important in my opinion and the least known is the one between dissemination and concentration. For example, any function that is entrusted to specialized organs in animals is diffused all over the body in plants. It is a fundamental difference whose consequences are difficult to fully understand. Such a different structure is one of the reasons why plants seem so different. The fact that we have a certain number of fundamental organs in common with almost all animals, makes them closer and more understandable. Why have vegetables not developed the individual specialized organs that have proved to be so useful in the animal world? The answer is banal. Even if organs are efficient in performing their functions, they are a weak point. 

A new approach to evaluate the environmental footprint of crop and animal food production

The Food and Agriculture Organization has recently estimated that ˜ 15% of the world’s population is chronically hungry nowadays, and that even more suffer from nutritional inadequacy. About 1-billion face an inadequate protein intake, causing a variety of nutritional deficiencies, impaired growth, poor health etc. Prospectively, ˜ 70–100% more food than that produced today will be required by 2050. Therefore, a dramatic increase in the demand of land, the need for increased efficiency in the food production system, and/or a reconsideration of dietary habits in the perspective of human requirements, are to be expected in the near future.
In this regard, the environmental footprint of animal food production is considered several-fold greater than that of crops cultivation.

A safe refrigerator

The refrigerator today has almost become a synonym for food pantry because it is an important appliance for preserving the freshness of foods which can last longer if kept at a low temperature or protected against from the oxygen that causes oxidation. Frozen and deep frozen food is not considered fresh.
A refrigerator must be at the right temperature, neither too low nor too high, ranging between 4-6°C on the various shelves. Nor should it also be too full, especially if it is not ventilated. For this reason, it is best to choose a refrigerator model with a control thermometer and an external display.
If the temperature in the refrigerator is too low, foods freeze and lose their freshness. With temperatures above 7°C, foods not only lose their freshness, but the microbes that alter foodstuffs can also multiply dangerously, even causing severe food infections and poisoning. In industrialized countries, where almost all families have a refrigerator, it is estimated that only 3% of food accidents result from production whereas the remaining 97% originate in the kitchen during food handling, and is mainly due to improper storage in the refrigerator. 

Native or exotic? A widespread and often useless debate

The debate on the choice between exotic and native species has always been rather heated but often excessively simplified (native “good”, exotic “bad”). In particular, it is not supported by scientific evidence. This is especially true for parks and gardens in urban areas. The concept of native, strictly speaking, in an alien environment like that of our cities, does not make sense, therefore it seems appropriate to reconcile controversial positions and have an objective, rational approach rather than a subjective, empathetic and emotional one, as often happens.
First of all, the meaning of exotic should be made clear. In our common sense we associate this word with tropical and equatorial countries when, in fact, from the etymological point of view, the word derives from the Greek, exotikos, which in turn derives from exo, outside. It should refer to anything originating or being imported from other regions that are not necessarily warm and/or equatorial.

The cultivation of orrises in Tuscany

The cultivation of orrises (Iris spp) for the use of their rhizomes began in Tuscany in the mid-1800s reaching substantial production quantities due to demand by French and northern European firms for the orris powder used in perfumeries and distilleries. The Tuscan product was highly sought after and competitive because of the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of its components. The most widespread species is I. pallida that produces gamma irone, the ketone compound responsible for the aromatic characteristics of essential oils. The Tuscan producers are now mainly concentrated in the two hilltop areas of Pratomagno Aretino and Chianti Fiorentino.

Marketing rules for animal products

The opening to the international market and the enlargement of the range of purchase options have made it necessary for continuous regulation at a national and supranational level for a policy that defends domestic products and consumers from the aggressiveness of some market players. Consumers have a right to know what they are buying, but we must also secure a commercial advantage for companies that increase operational standards and guarantee their products’ hygiene safety and (nutritional and organoleptic) quality with precise traceability conditions for the productive and commercial chain. The temptation to commit commercial fraud is very strong; it cannot be held in check merely by relying on the good faith of the promoters. It is extremely important to develop a system of guarantees for the world of production and consumption that can be used as a monitoring tool and as a strategic lever for access to consumer markets deliberately in search of safety and quality. 

Memories about Silviero Sansavini

This is John Palmer’s presentation to the ISHS Symposium on Orchard Systems, held in Bologna 28 August-2 September 2016

Beware of vegan diets for newborn babies

News of children sent to hospital with severe forms of malnutrition due to a vegan diet imposed by their parents has begun to multiply. The vegan ideology, and its most uncompromising version (fruitarian), is affecting more and more people, usually from highly educated groups. These food choices may be understandable, even if not justifiable, for adults, but forcing children to adopt a diet lacking in animal-derived products may expose them to severe risks for their health and psycho-physical development.
We are talking about ideology because, after being weaned, herbivores in nature are anatomically and physiologically equipped to digest vegetable fibers and proteins with the help of bacteria and protozoans that produce both proteins having a high biological value, like those contained in meat as well as the especially indispensable B-group vitamins. Being omnivores that developed in a food niche where meat had a fundamental role (we were hunter-gatherers for millions of years), humans cannot synthesize these essential nutrients. Thus if they eat only vegetables, they must use artificial food supplements whose efficacy in terms of nutrient bioavailability cannot be compared to that of foods. 

Bioeconomy: an important driving force for economic and industrial revival

The world’s population is bound to increase further. It is estimated that there will be at least 9 billion people by 2050 and that agricultural production will have to rise by at least 70% to feed them. At the same time, some of the traditional, non-renewable commodities are starting to run out. It is estimated that we currently consume natural resources as if we had at our disposal a planet and a half and that if the whole world consumed the same amount of natural resources as the average of the OECD countries, it would be as if we had three planets instead of one. One possible solution is represented by greater and better development of biological and renewable resources to produce greater quantities of higher quality foods and fodder, but also chemical and fuels thus guaranteeing food safety and quality, reduced environmental pollution and climate change as well as new market and employment opportunities. 
Bioeconomy’s priorities include agriculture, forestry, sustainable fishing and aquaculture, food safety and quality, paper and forest production, bioindustry and biorefineries, and the management and promotion of marine resources and internal waters. Bioeconomy is an important pillar of the European economy, with an annual turnover of 2.1 trillion euro and about 20 million jobs, and of the Italian economy, with an annual turnover  of about 250 billion euro and 2 million jobs.

Nanotechnology on the table

Nanomaterials are materials with at least one of measurements between one and one hundred nanometers. A nanometer (i.e., one millionth of a millimeter) is fifty thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and so we are in a universe invisible to the human eye. It is a solid whose surface is one-centimeter square. If we divide this solid into millions of particles, the surface increases by a millionfold, and hence there is a huge increase in surface area and thus a better use of their properties, with a drastic reduction in the quantity used. Nanomaterials have applications in various fields - electronics, pharmaceuticals, energy, environment, food, packaging, textiles, cosmetics, etc. - which have not yet been fully explored still today.
The physical properties of materials and nanocomposites in particular also affect foods, in an orientation that tends to favor physical rather than chemical treatments, with the latter being increasingly opposed by the public. The possible food applications of nanomaterials are diverse, covering also food and especially their packaging for now.

Is your football team playing badly? It may be air pollution. And what's happening to plants?

Football fans have thousands of reasons to justify the, at times, lackluster athletic performances of their idols. Apart, obviously, from “conspiracy theories” and referee plots, they range from the size and state of the pitch, the color of the t-shirts, the bouncing capacity of the ball, and other theories. A recent article published in The Guardian  has introduced a new element: air pollution.  In fact, a group of German researchers has analyzed the correlations between air quality outside Bundesliga football pitches and player performance by counting successful passes and the conclusions are worrying. 
Toxic substances, even below the threshold allowed by environmental regulations, are responsible for significant reductions in the parameters chosen.

Officinal and aromatic plants in the history of nations

In the past, the term "drug" meant anything that was able to heal. It could be vegetable, animal, mineral substances or incantations, spells, amulets, etc. The essential thing was to escape death. This led to the birth of numerous imaginative practices that only today can be said to have been almost completely abandoned. Speaking of plants,
 the theory of "signatures" is well-known, which tied the plant’s medicinal effectiveness to its outward shape. Because it has lobed leaves with lower face a wine red, Hepatica nobilis was thought to be useful in treating the liver, and so on. Of course, under the congeries of multiform beliefs and information, "reason" gradually succeeded in understanding what could objectively be of use to the patient.

The landscape of Pompeii and the Vesuvius area during the Roman age

The great Vesuvian eruption in 79. C. resulted in the preservation until today of one of the largest archaeological World Heritage Sites. Few people know that even what can be termed as the largest archive of botanical and agronomic materials of classical antiquity has been preserved in this area. The progression of research today allows these plant remains to be analyzed using different methods, which are based on the botanical identification of materials, both charred and uncharred, that were buried by the eruption.

Bayer to Acquire Monsanto for $66B

Acquisition realises a shared vision of integrated agricultural offerings, delivering enhanced solutions for growers and creates a leading innovation engine for the next generation of farming.

SANGIOVESE UNGRAFTED

The Sangiovese is the most valuable, famous, and widespread red-wine grape variety in central Italy. Its origin and provenance are uncertain. Some studies of the historical and angiographic sources have highlighted two distinct nuclei, one in the Romagna hills and the other in the Tuscan hills, whereas the germoplasm differences between the two nuclei might highlight a common ancient origin with a subsequent differentiation over the centuries. As the legend goes, the name derives from a bishop’s exclamation, who, in the Middle Ages, finding himself on Mount Giovi in the Apennine ridge of Mount Morello, after tasting this full-bodied wine compared it to Jove’s thunderbolts and the god’s strong and warm blood (sanguis Jovis). Meanwhile, Francesco Redi, already by 1655 a fellow of the Accademia della Crusca, wrote in his work Bacco in Toscana (1685), "If the pleasing blood of grapes does not refresh our veins all the time, this life is too weak, too short, and always amid a sea of pain. [...] But if you ask for the purplish drink from Lappeggio, you will dry up all the wine in the cellar." In his work, Redi refers to Falerno, the ancient Roman wine known in the late Republican era of ancient Rome. What is certain is that Sangiovese’s origins are lost in the mists of time.

Climate change and fruit-bearing trees in temperate climates

European fruit-farming is mainly concentrated in Mediterranean countries, with most of the cultivars currently grown needing between 600-700 and 1000-1200 hours of winter cold (conventionally computed from October to February below 7.2°C), in line with the normal climate trend. With the progressive rise in winter temperatures that has accelerated in the last few years, cold weather is more and more frequently registered as no more than 500-600 hours, making again relevant a problem that had seemed resolved.
In the 1950s and 60s, many peach cultivars, mainly introduced from the United States (Georgia, Michigan, and New Jersey), had problems in southern Italy with their need for cold with the subsequent early drop of flower buds. The problem for this species was overcome following the importation of cultivars mainly from California and, for the milder southern areas, from Florida, two states whose climates are very similar to that of southern Italy.
The on-going climate change and the current distribution of fruit-farming, of apricot trees especially and of cherry trees in part in southern Italy (Basilicata and Sicily, in particular), is actually presenting the problem of environmental adaptability of various cultivars of these species.

Role of endophytic bacteria in modern agriculture

Plants host distinct microorganism communities on and inside various of their compartments; the diversity of microbes associated with healthy plants is enormous, fungal and other eukaryotic species can be found but a critical importance is attributed to the remarkable richness of beneficial bacteria. In particular, endophytes colonize the internal parts of plants and can be isolated from various surface-sterilized plant portions. 
Plant-microbe interactions can positively influence plant growth through a variety of mechanisms, including fixation of atmospheric nitrogen by different classes of proteobacteria, increased biotic and abiotic stress tolerance imparted by the presence of endophytic microbes, direct and indirect advantages conferred by plant growth–promoting rhizobacteria, by the production of phyto-hormones or by enhancing availability of minerals or translocating those directly from soil to plant, as the case of mycorrhizal fungi. Bacteria can also positively interact with plants by producing protective biofilms or antimicrobials operating as biocontrols against potential pathogens, or by degrading plant- and microbe-produced compounds in the soil that would otherwise be allelopathic or even autotoxic.

Revenge of real foods on light foods

Low-fat milk, light butter, fat-free cheeses, lean meats, mayonnaise without oil, sugar-free biscuits and so on are some of the many “light” and “-free” foods whose days, for various reasons, seem to be numbered.
The first reason is that they have not had the hoped-for results as consumers, to the great pleasure of sellers and producers, often tend to eat larger quantities of lean or light food but with a terrible effect on their diet being merely excuses to binge, with the thought that “after all, they’re light”.
Moreover, many important properties are especially lost in making natural foods “light”.

SELENIUM-ENRICHMENT in plants grown for food

Selenium is an essential micronutrient with multiple roles in the growth and metabolism of plant and animal cells. It is present in the glutathione peroxidases and tetraiodothyronine 5' deiodinases enzymes as a part of the selenocysteine amino acid and in the selenoprotein P and can act as an antioxidant with positive effects in the prevention of cancer and the neutralization of toxicity from heavy metals. According to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for supplemental selenium in humans ranges from 50 to 100 mg/day. An ideal nutritional supplement able to reverse a deficient selenium status correlated to lowered immunity to diseases is represented by the edible part of Se-enriched plants with selenium stored in the organic form, which is more available than the inorganic one. 

Land Grabbing also hits Europe

The main actors of land grabbing, mainly concentrated in Africa and to a lesser extent in Asia and Latin America, has been the Chinese and Americans. It mainly developed in the early 21st century with the use of potentially fertile lands. In 2012, after FAO proclaimed a moratorium against land grabbing in poor countries, the fear spread that “the guidelines for land regulations and access to fishing and forestry resources” may have become law, impeaching the existing contracts. This made the investors assaulting African lands more careful. The hunger for lands did not stop, though, the objective simply changed. 

Election at the Georgofili Academy, Giampiero Maracchi confirmed to the Presidency

Summer Holidays

Brexit, one sure thing at the ballot box: nothing in Europe will be the same

The very first consequences of the possibility that the referendum on Great Britain’s permanence in Europe may lead to Brexit are starting to be identified. Markets, as usual, try to anticipate the predictable effects and some elements of greater instability, especially financial ones, can already be guessed, also considering the fact that London is one of the world’s major financial centers: the sterling pound is under pressure, in general, safer investments are sought in other currencies…..there will be unforeseeable outcomes, anyway, of great and incalculable complexity especially for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, even for the prospects to remain as it is, considering Scotland’s very clear independence desire…
With the referendum on Brexit, a new phase opens where there are many uncertainties as this referendum may also become a precedent for other European states, for example for some in the Danube area that are experiencing at present a return to strong nationalisms that may follow the same precedent that Great Britain is using to try to leave the European Union…
The British referendum is becoming a kind of plebiscite where emotions risk overwhelming reason.

Organic agriculture cannot save us. Genome editing can.

We are republishing Anna Meldolesi’s interview with Sanjaya Rajaram from "La Lettura", the Corriere della Sera supplement from Sunday 29 May 2016. Born to a humble family in a farming village in Uttar Pradesh, India, Sanjaya Rajaram was encouraged to study, becoming one of the best students in his district and going on to graduate in agronomy. He has developed about 500 new varieties of wheat grown in fifty-some countries.

He does not write pamphlets with easy recipes for a better world. He has spent more time in the fields than captivating audiences. However, it is a symptom of a cultural disease that few people know Sanjaya Rajaram - and many know Vandana Shiva. This former is an Indian agronomist, who won the 2014 World Food Prize, has picked up the torch of Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution who, in the second half of the last century, doubled grain production in much of the globe, as a result of better seeds, irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides. Rajaram has developed 500 new varieties of wheat grown in 51 countries. He came to Italy for the World Food Research and Innovation Forum promoted by the Emilia Romagna region.

There are 795 million people who do not eat enough. Is it the fault of politics or of droughts, floods, and epidemics?
The majority of the hungry are unemployed and landless. They live in remote areas without access to the market and do not have the basic education to develop skills. Although in many countries they would have enough food to feed everyone, policies to distribute are lacking.
In the immediate future, special arrangements are needed to provide basic necessities free of charge and relieve chronic hunger but education programs are essential in the long term.

Fragrant fir or rather Douglas fir

The Douglas fir is an American conifer that rapidly produces very good timber, the reason why it was introduced into Europe, including Italy. It looks like a fir but if you rub the leaves instead of smelling of resin, it smells like lemon hence the name “fragrant American fir”. Science has given it many other names. Originally it was classified as a Pinus. When Elie Abel Carrière began to reform the conifer systematics, he noticed it resembled a Tsuga, but not exactly, so it adopted the name Pseudotsuga. The specific attribute douglasii is in honor of David Douglas who, in the early 19th century, distributed it to the botanical gardens in Europe. However, earlier, in the late 18th century, the species had been described by explorer Archibald Menzies, and it was for this reason that Charles François Brisseau de Mirbel had given him the name of Pinus menziesii. It was the reason for which a Portuguese professor of noble lineage (Joao Manual Antonia, Pais do Amaral Franco) determined that the current valid name is Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco. However, for a long time, her American compatriots retained the name Pseudotsuga taxifolia, proposed by Nathaniel Britton, a professor at Columbia University.
My goodness, what does it take to give a name to a plant!

GLUTEN-FREE foods

Gluten-free are the magic words for the continuously increasing market of gluten-free products. In 2013, it was 3.7 billion dollars and is projected to reach 6.2 billion dollars in 2018. At first it was chemist's shops, now it is the supermarkets that are participating in this high-priced sales growth that seems unstoppable and, if not guided, is at least encouraged by those who say they have a gluten-free diet. Meanwhile, the shelves of bookshops increasingly display books that explain how to live and lose weight by eliminating gluten.
Supermarket shelves are filled with gluten-free products. The words also appear on foods, like chocolate bars, that do not contain gluten because “gluten-free”, just like other “-free” descriptions, seem to be today’s magic words for selling well.
In distant times long forgotten, bakeries had signs or posters advertising glutinate pastries, preparate according to an idea by Giovanni Buitoni in 1847. From the end of that century up to the mid-twentieth, a gluten pastry, a dough to which dry gluten was added by weight of 15%, entered the homes of Italians as "the best food for children, the sick and convalescents, the product for regimens for the obese, gouty, hyperuricemia sufferers and diabetics" and with advertisements that said "breast milk is no longer enough, now it takes gluten dough!" "The payoff at school depends on good health. Good health is protected with a gluten pastry".
Even in a new fashion of foods “without” something, offering a food today that claims the addition of gluten, like salt or sugar, would be like adding "poison".

How to restore soil functionality in degraded areas of vineyards

The preparation stages of a vineyard, like many other multi-annual crops (orchards, olive groves, forestry) often have a large impact on the soil, as they can create excessive leveling, plowing and plowing too deep, excessive crushed bedrock, the disproportionate application of background fertilizers and earth fills. The same manipulation of the natural contours of the land, such as the mixing of horizons, truncation and burial, can disturb the existing natural chemical, physical, biological and hydrological balances. The most common problems arising from these interventions are a reduction of organic substances, the enrichment of calcium carbonate and soluble salts on the surface up to levels too high for the grapevines, a reduction of water retention capacity and consequent increased summer water stress, a decrease in water permeability and circulation of oxygen in the soil, an increased water runoff, surface erosion and landslide risk, the reduction of biodiversity and the limitation of biochemical processes (organic matter mineralization, bioavailability of nutrients, etc.).

Nutritional profiles and traffic light labelling: do we really need them?

Some weeks ago the European Parliament clearly expressed, by a very large majority, its opposition to the European Commission’s creation of nutritional profiles, under the European Regulation on nutritional and health food claims (1). This decision has been interpreted in many milieus and especially in Italy as a refusal of the by now famous English traffic light labeling that is their direct application. The traffic light labeling has been shown to damage, by degrading their quality, the best Italian and European agrifood products (especially PDO and PGI) on sale in the United Kingdom.
Actually the Parliament has wanted to recognize the poor scientific foundation of the nutritional profiles in order to resolve the growing problem of obesity, thus repeating a judgment already expressed in 2008 by the European Agency for Food Safety (EFSA). Moreover, it has also rejected the traffic-light system in the revision of the European legislation, judging it disproportionate in cost/benefit terms.

Computer technology supporting pheromone monitoring

The monitoring of agricultural and forest pests has been easily carried out for decades using pheromone traps. Their use requires periodic field inspections of the traps, a dependable classification of the specimens collected, and the data logging and processing. The difficulties in carrying out all these operations, which require skill and time, have created a need for automation.

ESSAY ON "THE GEORGOFILI AND INNOVATIONS IN AGRICULTURE" ON-LINE

Considerations on the carcinogenicity of red and processed meat

The Associazione Scientifica per la Scienza e le Produzioni Animali (ASPA) has for some time had a study committee to assess the level of knowledge on the relationship between foodstuffs of animal origin and human health, to identify possible areas deserving attention and in-depth study, and to foster dialogue with the entire scientific community by promoting accurate information on this topic. It is this very aspect of communication that, in the recent days, has been the focus of great concern to the entire scientific community that deals with animal-derived foodstuffs because of the intense media campaign that has followed the publication in the scientific journal Lancet Oncology of a brief note by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) working group. In fact, a few days ago, IARC issued a report not yet available that, however, was summarized in a short two-page note published in the news section of the journal Lancet Oncology, where 22 scientists consider to be carcinogenic to the colon and rectum the consumption of processed meats and probably carcinogenic that of red meat.

Biodynamic agriculture and university education

The text was approved by National Union of Italian Academies for Food Science, Agriculture and Environment (UNASA) and the National Academy of Sciences called XL

It is an absolute must to properly discuss with university students everything about our times especially if the facts, products, processes, and even fashions have some bearing on university courses. Therefore, it certainly seems fair to discuss biodynamic agriculture fairly, especially in all the agricultural courses, so as to give students sound information on its basic principles and the techniques that make it work. From here to formulate ad hoc training courses, we have to go a long way and we will try to explain our concerns, striving to distinguish this form of agriculture from organic farming. The latter, organic farming, has now established itself with a wide range of products and with a substantial proportion of consumers who prefer them to traditional ones. 
Is biodynamic farming based on the use of specific techniques, like traditional and organic farming? The answer is certainly yes, but it is necessary to consider the merits of these technical means so as to make a careful and accurate assessment. 
Do cultivated fields require a supply of nutrients? Of course, and biodynamic farming does not deny this technical operation, but it is carried out in a very unusual way, with the use of natural substances that are, at times, uniquely prepared. In fact they recommend the "biodynamic preparations" derived from manure, but extremely diluted and used in very small concentrations on crops; or propose derivatives of the cattle horns, which are also used, such as manure, to traditional agriculture, but in very limited quantities as to be homoeopathic; to many skeptics, these practices seem marked by esotericism, therefore devoid of objective scientific basis. Obviously, a cultivation treated with chemicals, either pesticides or fertilizers or, let alone, herbicides cannot be biodynamic. If the synthetic substances now listed are also frequently avoided by organic farming, their absence in biodynamics must be total, as they are opposed to life. 
Not surprisingly, the biodynamic method of cultivation has been inspired by a philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, who lived in Austria from the second half of '800 and the early' 900.

Mohammed, food and the mountain

Mass emigration today is now encompassing the whole planet as even outside Europe there are similar exoduses such as those to the United States from Mexico, to South Africa from neighboring countries and from Nigeria, and from China to Russia, across the Ussuri River, as well as towards every continent.
Today more than ever, the planet is characterized by economic imbalances and huge differences in living standards while news that once circulated only in restricted circles has now been globalized through electronic devices that acquaint everyone with what New York’s Fifth Avenue is like, how appealing the window displays on Via Condotti or Via Monte Napoleone in Italy are, which cars are used and what foods are being eaten in Europe and the United States, etc.  
However, by applying the Muslim saying “if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain”, today’s refugees from hunger (different from those fleeing war and slaughter) are leaving their native lands to come to wealthy countries, even risking very dangerous sea crossings as they are no longer receiving the Euro-American aid that they got until a few years ago.

Direct and indirect damage by the emerald ash borer (AGRILUS PLANIPENNIS)

The damage caused by the emerald ash borer is not linked just to felling trees, transporting them to special dumps and replanting, but also to health problems that may worsen because of tree loss. Recent research has highlighted effects on health and wellbeing that further increase the problem. In fact, there has been increased mortality connected to cardiovascular and lower respiratory system diseases in the areas infested by this insect. The magnitude of this problem will increase as the infection has advanced and has appeared more striking in areas inhabited by people with an above average household income. In the 15 US states where research was carried out, the damage caused by the beetle have been linked to 6113 deaths caused by diseases of the lower respiratory tract and 15,080 deaths as a consequence of cardiovascular problems. 
For these reasons, the emerald ash borer clearly represents a real threat not only with regard to the landscape of a continent and because of the direct and indirect costs, but also a public health problem at a level that could become global. Managing this pest therefore requires maximum cooperation between the countries involved and those that soon may be. Epidemics, even in the plant world, are like a fire: a small fire can be controlled, but when it blazes up, it is almost impossible to extinguish, as the numbers go up exponentially.

Cocoa, an ancient drug that fights modern "illnesses"

The interest in chocolate comes from the publication by Crichton et al. (Appetite 2016, 100: 126-132), that states the consumption of chocolate is associated with a better cognitive function as well as from the Siena artisanal chocolate festival which takes place in March and lasts five days. For the fifth time, it hosted the most important Italian chocolate manufacturers. This brief article will try recount in general terms the history of chocolate and its nutraceutical functions.
Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) is a small tree originally from South America whose 10-15 cm long pods contain some beans. The Maya and Aztec population migrations spread through central America, moreover, considering it the “food of the gods” and using it as divine offerings. These peoples also believed that the plant could grant immortality.

The role of legumes in limiting agricultural consumption of fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect

The invasion by fungi and bacteria of vegetables does not always result in a diseased state. On the contrary, some invasion types, i.e., when micro-organisms break into radical cells, are beneficial. By supplying essential nutrients, micro-organisms help both the host plants and crop rotations if not even entire agricultural systems. In certain symbiotic interactions, the roots are infected with mycorrhizal fungi that help plants acquire more phosphorus from the soil. In other agricultural symbioses, the rhizobia in the roots of such legumes as peas, soybeans and alfalfa (PHOTO) produce the nitrogen form necessary for growth. Recently, some biochemists and agronomists have begun to develop a thorough knowledge of the genes that determine the onset of these mutual interrelations. It was found that both the plant’s and the microorganisms’ genes contribute to the symbiosis. The two partners are in fact involved in a complex molecular conversation.

Shimon Lavee’s Great Legacy

China reforms the corn sector, repercussions expected on the international market

Without CAP subsidies, 90% of Spanish olive cultivation is losing money

Donkey’s milk and its nutritional properties

The breeding of donkeys for the production of drinking milk has been coming back into fashion in recent years, helping to save a genetic heritage. It has been known since antiquity that donkey’s milk was the most similar to human milk. It was extremely beneficial to infants and an adult’s diet, but its production was assigned a secondary role in breeding. The use of donkey’s milk was already known to the Egyptians and bas-reliefs from that time show it was given to children or used as a remedy for various disorders. Greeks considered it a drug and Hippocrates of Kos recommended donkey’s milk for its therapeutic qualities, especially for skin diseases. Theophrastus also recommended it for baths to treat inflamed skin, as the milk enzymes encouraged the restoration of its acidity. Romans considered it a delicious drink and Galen, a supporter of natural substances in medicine, used donkey’s milk for treatments. Its beneficial characteristics and use in cosmetics were known to Queen Cleopatra, who used to bathe in donkey’s milk to keep her skin soft. Poppaea and Messalina knew of its youth-giving properties and, imitating Cleopatra, bathed in the milk that Pliny the Elder thought made the skin softer and whiter. Messalina also loved these baths for their anti-wrinkle effect. This folk tradition of using donkey’s milk for feeding newborns as well as its nutritional, therapeutic and cosmetic qualities was handed down in Europe, but also in Asia and Africa. 

Hemp: its present and near future

Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is originally from Central Asia and was one of the first plants (some think it was the first one ever) to be cultivated by humans because of its triple value as a foodstuff (seeds), use in textiles (fiber), and medicine/ritual use (resin). The plant’s flexibility has led to the selection of varieties where some of these properties are particularly marked, generally to the disadvantage of others. Hemp’s versatility ensured its success in all the Old World’s civilizations. In addition, because of its use in producing nautical materials, it was one of the species cultivated by European settlers in the New World. Hemp was cultivated for its fibers in Europe but its psychotropic properties were practically unknown until Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. 

Farmers, the reasons for French unrest

Why does the chinese government want to purchase Syngenta?

Opening of Georgofili Academy’s 263rd year

On Friday, 8 April 2016, in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, the opening ceremony for the Georgofili Academy’s 263rd year took place.
President Giampiero Maracchi developed a report entitled: “Scenari del futuro” (Future Scenarios).
The opening address was made by Luca Lazzaroli, Director General of the European Investment Bank, on the topic of “Rilanciare la crescita e la competitività in Europa. L'azione della Banca Europea per gli Investimenti” (Re-Launching Growth And Competitiveness in Europe. The European Investment Bank’s Intervention)
After awarding the 2016  Antico Fattore Prize and the Prosperitati Publicae Augendae Prize, the international section of the Georgofili Academy gave special recognition to  the “Manifesto dei Giovani”, a young people’s manifesto, sponsored by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation, which contains suggestions for solving the paradoxes of the food system.

Following are some excerpts from the speech by Giampiero Maracchi, president of the Georgofili Academy. 

1. The world in crisis
The starting point is to acknowledge the fact that the world is in crisis, a structural crisis that concerns climate and environment because, for twenty years, we have used more resources that those available. We have huge problems disposing of garbage and soil has lost fertility. This crisis has also been determined by the unbalanced relationship between urban and rural centers: just think of Shanghai, with its 25 million people. Besides the environmental crisis, there also exists a serious political crisis for which the classical scheme of politics controlling the economy has been inverted with multinationals now in control. Added to this is a crisis of values. In fact, a totally free market does not work. An over-dependence on oil and the wars for oil have disastrous consequences that are there for all to see.

The collapse in commodity prices

It may be the fact that China has bought less, that harvests in some countries were plentiful, or for some other complex reasons. In any case, the result is that the world prices of many commodities, including wheat, have dropped to very low levels.
Of course, aflatoxin-infected wheat costs even less and hence the reason a commodity that cannot be used by law has arrived in an Italian port. 
Yet the underlying problem of this condition of the European agricultural market is in the common agricultural policy, an unfortunate choice by the EU legislature backed by the consensus of many, too many politicians. For a long time, the EC and the USA sent massive quantities of foodstuffs or the seeds to produce them to such non-aligned states as Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Chad, etc. In many questionable, perhaps even despicable respects, they tolerated the presence of dictators like Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.
Those who believed these were humanitarian actions or were carried out to allow exporting the huge surpluses accumulated because of the agricultural policies of the planet’s two most powerful food and economic entities were mistaken. They were foreign policy actions to maintain the previously-mentioned states within the Western sphere of influence in order to contain Soviet expansionism, which had its wings clipped when it came to food products, given the permanent agricultural production crises in Russia and Ukraine.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the EC and the USA decided to change policy also because Europe no longer had any interest in protecting the stabilizing element of power represented by farmers. As I said at a meeting organized by an association of farmers, the “Berlin wall” did not fall on the “communists”, but rather on the European farmers. 

Are genetically modified plants a danger?

There is no reason why plant geneticists must watch helplessly as their research on the genetic modification of plants is subjected to prohibitions. They have suffered in silence for too long and now their voice is being heard.
A European Union regulation leaves it up to member states to regulate the cultivation of genetically modified plants within their borders. In Italy, the State Council has used this as an opportunity to ban both research and production. All this now, while for twenty years, transgenic plants have increasingly been grown worldwide. A little less than 200 million hectares, well over 10% of cultivated areas worldwide, are now destined annually to Genetically Modified Plants (GMP). This, while we feed ourselves with GM-derived plants or animals that are fed with GM plants and feed. Slogans such as "acceptance of the precautionary principle" have led to the premise of destroying plants in the experimental fields (recently with the destruction of transgenic plants at the University of Tuscia). This, while all over the world, species that are more parasite-resistant and have less need of water open up a real possibility to the hungry and the undernourished on the world.
We cannot just ask Italy to respect the role of science on a subject that has already had a huge impact application worldwide. We want to recall that researchers have always studied nature to understand its rules and use them for human progress. Modifications based on the transfer of genes fall within this ongoing process.
Let us start by rebutting claims used by GMP opponents.

Californian oil / Italian oil

In a recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine (January 25-31, 2016), an article appeared by Peter Robinson and Vernon Silver with the title “A Californian Olive Grower Says His Oil Is Better Than Italy's”.
The title in itself could be interpreted as praising Italian olive oil. If a Californian olive grower promotes his extra-virgin olive oil by saying that it is better than Italy's, it may be inferred that he considers Italian Extra-Virgin Olive Oils as the touchstone of olive oil quality. The article, however, offers quite a different impression.
Before presenting my point of view, let me first clarify this prejudiced discussion.
I'd never say that Californian oils are of lower quality than Italian oils. Such a statement would be unfair and false. There are very good Californian extra-virgin olive oils (and I know some of them very well), and there are also very common or even bad Italian olive oils (and I know some of them as well). But the approach of the article is questionable and seriously damaging to the reputation of Italian olive oil. Unfortunately, this practice of degrading a product is often exercised around the world, particularly in business competition, and is often aimed against the excellence of some Italian foods.
Now, let's get to the point.
It is misleading to compare a Californian (or any other country's) olive oil produced and sold by its producer with olive oils sold by commercial companies as blends of extra-virgin olive oils of various origin. The article correctly cites Jean-Louis Barjol, the executive director of the International Olive Council (IOC), who said “it is rather a question of commodity vs specialized product”. I totally agree: when we are talking about commodity, the basic tool of competition is price, whereas when we are talking about a specialized product, it is quality that counts.

UE-US Transatrantic Trade and Investments Partnership negotiations focusing on agriculture

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (US). It was expected that the agreement would be finalized by the end of 2014, but it has been rescheduled for 2016. The topics under discussion are divided into three broad areas: Market access; Specific regulation; and broader rules and principles and modes of co-operation. Specific regulation includes an Agriculture regulation which is the focus of the present contribution.
In fact achieving foods and nutrition security today and for a world population that will number more 9 billion and be 70% urbanized by 2050 is a key global challenge. In order to resolve this problem and to tackle other relevant problems after a failure of Doha round negotiations UE and US initiated TTIP. The  main goal of TTIP is to stimulate the import and export of goods and services, by reducing trade barriers between both sides of the Atlantic . From many years ago EU-US disputed for trade agreements and agriculture policies particular accusing each other to distort economy by subsidizing agricultures sector which can interpret as protectionism. Both sides had a lot of discussion at the WTO level, and agriculture sector is still unresolved problem. Despite of failures of Doha round negotiations, it has been said that TTIP agreements is full of opportunities.

Teff an interesting gluten free cereal

Teff (Eragrostis tef) is a crop for which Ethiopia is the center of origin and diversity. Teff adapts to a wide range of environmental conditions and fits to different cropping systems, patterns and sequences. It can grow from sea level up to 2800m and under various rainfall, temperature and soil regimes. It is the most resilient crop that can grow with low risk of failure and has a versatile adaptation and grows in 11 of the 18 major agro ecological zones of Ethiopia. 

Food preservation in modified atmosphere: some food for thought

he growing world demand for food has highlighted the necessity of both reducing food waste during distribution and consumption (in countries with advanced economies, it is estimated that about 30% of food is lost at this stage) and improving preservation techniques to maintain the nutritional characteristics of foodstuffs. These requests, together with the changes in life styles and consumption models, have promoted the development of specific preservation techniques including the packaging of food in modified or protective atmosphere (MAP).

MAP is based on the principle of replacing the air in the packaging with a pre-determined gas mixture. MAP technology can be applied to various types of fresh and processed foods. In addition, depending on the nature of the food matrix and the duration of the shelf-life to be attained, it is possible to take action on the following factors:
the type and proportions of gases in the mixes,
 storage temperature,
 packaging types and materials, and
 the treatments provided by the transformation process.
As packaging gases are food additives according to art.20 paragraph b of the EU regulations no. 1169/2011, they are not to be considered as ingredients of the packaged food and, consequently, they are not required to be listed among the ingredients. The only information required is that the packages are marked with "packaged in a protective atmosphere”, according to attachment III, paragraph 1 of the regulations mentioned above. 

Drought emergency in Italy: measures to cope with water scarcity in agriculture

The particular weather pattern currently being experienced in almost the whole of Italy, with a dry autumn-winter period and/or with short but intense torrential rains, is a consequence of climate change and is causing many problems to agriculture. The main issues concern the management of crop growing techniques, the choice of the spring-summer crops, the reduction of the irrigation water needs, and the optimal allocation of the limited water resources available.

As regards the cultivation techniques, the strategies should be aimed primarily at: reducing and/or avoiding soil-stored water losses due to direct evaporation or transpiration; improving water  productivity; and reducing the period of unfavorable weather conditions during crop growth.

Aquaculture: birth and modernity

A traditional marine activity, fishing is carried out in natural bodies of water (seas, lakes, rivers). Of the approximately 250,000 existing aquatic species, just over 1,200 are used (FISHSTAT, FAO Database), with 20 species accounting for 80% of the world’s production. Thousands of other species are used by small fishermen. Today the demand for fish cannot be satisfied merely with the catch because the fish populations would be drastically impoverished. Aquaculture tackles this problem by producing aquatic animals and plants in facilities controlled for habitat, reproduction, and diet. Today it is one of the fastest-growing production activities and the market for other fish products could grow in response to increased demand for quality proteins, especially from fish, which is not satisfied by natural fishing grounds.

Ancient DNA

DNA records the biological characteristics of organisms that have adapted to the environment in which they live. Today DNA can also be extracted from ancient organisms, with analyses of its structure offering the possibility to evaluate the evolutionary distance covered when compared with contemporary DNA. Despite all this, there are difficulties because, thus far, the ancient DNA is almost always degraded and, in some cases, in a fragmentary state, just like an encyclopedia in which most of the letters on the thousands of pages that have reached us are erased or faded. Plants differentiate from other living beings both because of the thick walls and polysaccharide teguments that protect the nuclear DNA and because of the plastids, characteristic organelles that are also protected by two unit membranes. 

Slow food or techno food?

What is a green city?

Before proceeding to answer this question, a few terms must be defined. First, even if the specific challenges that the city centers are facing are often highlighted in articles, the term "city" generally refers to a broader metropolitan area. For example, "Milan" represents the large metropolitan area surrounding the city, not just the city lying within the city limits. The same applies to other major cities in different parts of the world, such as Chicago, London, Tokyo, São Paulo, etc.
A metropolitan area is made up of a central area containing a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that nucleus. Metropolitan areas may therefore include several cities/urban agglomerations. Focusing on metropolitan areas makes sense because the majority of people and jobs are concentrated in metropolitan areas (over 50% worldwide and 70% in Europe), but outside of the proper “center”.
Defining a "green" metropolis is a more difficult task. Most of us have an intuitive sense of what defines a green city, like Portland, Oregon, as compared to urban centers defined as "gray", like Mexico City.
Apart from having cleaner air, green cities also encourage "green behaviors", like the use of public transport, with their environmental impact being relatively low so as, in some cases, to almost arrive at zero impact. Can this definition of a green city be translated into objective indicators of urban environmental quality?

The expected rapid growth of world urbanization: the Chinese government's revolutionary programs

World urbanization
The expansion of human urbanization – rapidly being carried out in the Asian, African, and South American emerging countries – will have very serious and revolutionary consequences, especially in the international industrial and food sectors.
It means the transfer of hundreds of millions of people from rural to urban areas, from rural to centralized industrial and service activities.
Food production will also have to be reorganized and industrialized in rural areas, to meet the new concentrated and diversified needs typical of urban populations. Obviously, in the meantime, in the wide concerned areas, the mechanization of agricultural cultivation operations will have to substitute the labor used so far. New roads and railway lines will have to be restructured or built to facilitate the trade and industrialization of all rural and urban activities, with special reference to new food needs, from a self-sustainable diet confined to the previous and current rural areas to the concentrated daily needs of wide urban agglomerations. It is therefore clear that agriculture too will have to undergo profound operational and organizational changes. What has been achieved in the last fifty years in industrialized countries can also be implemented in many important emerging countries.

The Chinese Programs
The Chinese government recently decided to carry out a dramatic urbanization program. Out of a total of 1.4 billion inhabitants in China, it is said that, by 2020, as many as 100 million of the current residents of rural areas and employed mainly in agriculture will be relocated to new urban centers and work in industry, trade, and social services. This is said to represent the first phase of a program that foresees 70% of the entire Chinese population becoming urban by 2025. indeed, this new plan expects that 60% of the Chinese population will be living in urban areas by 2020 as compared to the current 54%.

Sustainable productivity increase of plant proteins

At the beginning of the new millennium, 4.5 million hectares in the EU were cultivated with rapeseed, sunflowers, and soya beans and, based on the reduction of the aid provided by Agenda 2000 for the sector, the European Commission foresaw a contraction of about 700,000 hectares (in particular, the predicted decreases in production for 2006 were -50% for soya beans, -12% for rapeseed, and -10% for sunflowers).
Starting in 2003, oilseeds in Italy have undergone a significant contraction. For agronomical and environmental reasons, a drastic reduction of area for oil-seeds has resulted in an unacceptable simplification of crop rotations involving serious repercussions on the more typical cropping systems.

Climate and diet

The ability of human and animal populations to adapt to climate and diet is linked to the natural resources that have always characterized the environment in which they evolved. Human beings and animals therefore have their own climatic needs and dietary habits, differentiated by natural ecosystems (broadly divided into desert, arid, sub-arid, sub-humid and humid zones) distinguished by climatic factors determined by latitude and altitude (average temperature and excursions; rainfall and humidity, duration, composition and intensity of solar radiation, and air movements). These ecosystems select animals with those (physio-anatomical) genetic types best suited to the environment in which they live and which have acquired the ability to synchronize with changes in climate, food availability, and pathogens. From the Arctic Circle to the equator, the metabolic type of an Eskimo, a Lapp, or a northern European is not the same as that of a Mediterranean European or an African (Bantu or North African). In the same way, the animal species and breeds adapted to the various climates have differences in thermal tolerances. 

Germany risks being left without sauerkraut

Will a fungus save us from the ailanthus invasion?

Imagine everything happened merely because of a mistake when (around 1750) the French clergyman Pierre d’Incarville brought to Paris from faraway China a stock of seeds that he thought were those of the prized lacquer tree (Rhus verniciflua) but were instead ailanthus seeds (Ailanthus altissima, sin. A. glandulosa). Thus begins one of the most important biological invasions of the plant world in the modern times. This neophyte was valued in Europe for its beautiful appearance (it can reach over 20-25 m in height with an elegant straight habit, and a trunk diameter of more than 1 m; its foliage is pleasing to the eye and is reminiscent of walnut and ash trees).  Its hardiness is incomparable (it has no acclimatization problems as regards climate or edaphic factors). It is easy to cultivate and grows exceptionally fast. It is perfect for beautifying streets and parks, reinforcing slopes, and colonizing difficult, unstable terrain. One episode that contributed to its dissemination was when the breeding of the classical silk worm (Bombix mori) underwent a health crisis for problems and another lepidopteran was introduced from the East: the ailanthus silkworm, Samia cynthia, which feeds on the ailanthus (by the zoologist Paolo Savi in Pisa in 1856). Thus, an alternative sericulture chain was set up, with this tree becoming even more popular. In Florence, a “Società Ailantina Italiana” was even set up to encourage the spread of this plant species. However, this situation did not last for long. While Pasteur solved the Bombix infection problem – which was pébrine, a disease caused by the protozoan Nosema bombycis, the quality of the silk produced by the Samia left much to be desired. However, by then this plant had established itself and conquered ever more new areas. In the meanwhile, it had also reached the USA (starting from Pennsylvania in 1784), imported by English settlers and even there it was appreciated. A second line of introduction also occurred in California in the mid-19th century at the hands of the Chinese who emigrated to work on the transcontinental railway (but also to search gold!).

Fighting food waste

France has stolen Italy’s thunder by passing a law on the crime of food waste that has sparked immediate approval thanks also to the media’s interest in the food issues raised by EXPO 2015. Our country is discussing this issue as well with at least two regions having passed laws to support the fight against food waste.
This is one of those topics that has led to immediate support as it is linked to the problem of denutrition and malnutrition to which the Milan Charter dedicated some passages. It therefore deserves careful consideration without media limelight and hullabaloo.
The concept of waste refers to the excessive and inefficient use of goods and resources. In the case of food waste, the French law concentrates on food at the large-retailer level. Even those who follow in their footsteps do the same thing but with minor differences. However, the issue of waste is far more complex, with at least two points of view to be considered: agricultural products and foodstuffs, on the one hand, and the resources used to produce them, on the other. Indeed, waste –if we want to continue to call it that – starts in the fields when production is partly lost as a result of normal adversities. It continues through harvest and then post-harvest owing to the inadequacies and limits of the methods and techniques used, proceeding to the pallets used in retail outlets and finally to household management, which apparently accounts for the greatest losses.

New European Union Regulations for Pheromones

New European guidelines are about to be published by the SANTE’ Directorate General for Health and Food Safety to help the development, registration and use of active semiochemical substances as agricultural pesticides for the control of insect pests. In developing the new guidelines, the specific properties of these substances have been taken into account. They often target a specific action by modifying the behavior of the targeted species, can be used at concentrations similar to those found in nature, and may dissipate and/or degrade rapidly. For these reasons, it is expected that many semiochemical products pose a low risk to human health and the environment. Studies on their efficacy as well as on their impact on the environment and health have demonstrated that such substances may provide effective means of pest control at low volumes, and at minimal risk.

History of Italian agriculture and agricultural landscapes in the late Middle ages

The history of agriculture and the countryside in Italy has a long tradition of studies. The deep historical and environmental diversity that characterizes Italian history, the wealth of archival sources have addressed studies on the medieval countryside, with a focus on regional specificities and the relationships between agrarian history and economic history: urban-rural relationships, agricultural structures and the countryside, reclamation and cultivation techniques, forms of farm management and work, animal breeding and transhumance, diet and the movement of goods.

Edible flowers: are they a resource for the future?

The need to identify “new” edible plants has grown in the recent years even as a reaction to the increasingly greater standardization of food consumption that has been reported by many. FAO (2010), for example, estimates that, out of the 10,000 species used for food at the origin of agriculture, only 150-200 species are widely used today, and of these, only four (rice, wheat, maize, and potatoes) supply 50% of the world population’s calorie requirements. However, agro-biodiversity is an important aspect of agricultural system sustainability. Therefore, identifying edible plants is considered an efficient strategy for food security. Neglected and underutilized plants, “poor people’s food”, have become important tools for enriching the diet with useful healthful substances.

Non-destructive Techniques for Evaluating Fruit Quality

The degree of maturity reached by the fruits at harvest is closely connected to the quality of the fruit at consumption, their shelf life, and susceptibility to diseases in cold storage. Furthermore, although fruit quality is recognized as an important aspect, only some characteristics (soluble solids, flesh firmness, etc.) are determined with simple instrumentation (refractometer, penetrometer, etc.). Fruit ripening could be more accurately defined by considering simple sugars, organic acids, volatile substances, etc., However, these determinations require well-equipped laboratories, trained personnel, and they do not provide real-time information. Finally, the above mentioned techniques destroy the fruits in the course of the examination and are hardly representative.

Climate summit, a festival of slogans

At a first reading, the draft document from the Paris Conference on Climate Change does not show appreciable change from the twenty previous documents produced by the earlier conferences. Were we to make a pithy summary of the impressions one gets from the text, I would define it a “festival of slogans” filled with many good intentions yet without a real approach to the problem of climate change.
Perhaps, if the representatives of the participating countries had fully implemented Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si’, then the conference would have been a real step forward towards solving one of the third millennium’s crises.
The document, however, beyond its form in a brilliantly obscure and vague bureaucratese, has been divided into the usual mitigating chapters, namely, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by limiting the rise in temperature to 2°C and adaptation, i.e., the measures for becoming accustomed to the changes under way in the various parts of the world, things that have been repeated at all the conferences. Emissions continue to rise and world oil consumption has doubled since the 1980s. If this is the situation, the course adopted so far has not worked; therefore there should be a clear change of direction. But in what sense? Clearly defining the framework of the global crisis in which the climate change is taking place and which arises from the overuse of long-haul transport for goods and people linked to globalization, industrial technologies that use too much energy,  and the too limited use of renewable energies that do not serve the prevailing interests.

Press-related Panic

Is a press preview on increased cancer risks due to meat consumption able, by itself, to throw consumers in a modern developed country into a panic? If we consider what has happened, we must admit that, at least apparently, is exactly what happened. Thus the umpteenth food crisis, which is not a real crisis, started and became a real one when we take the facts and their consequences into consideration. Our consumer, a gourmet with a liking for eating traditions and enthusiastic about good food, is actually a coward and immediately loses his head. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last. The more the importance of food grows, even economically, the more irrational behaviors caused by obscure reasons and primitive fears increase. Recent years have been overrun with examples where panic spread and struck foodstuffs; blue mozzarellas, organic salad with E. coli, chickens flesh with avian flu, and so on. News media exasperated by the need for an ever bigger audience and by dropping sales cannot be an objective information source. It only spreads the most terrifying things, causing absurd and disproportionate reactions. We Italians are among the most fearful consumers of the developed world. If it turns out that the alarms were exaggerated, the damage and a negative recollection still remain to penalize consumption.
We must ask ourselves why this happens and why we are unable to have more effective information. However, perhaps some blame also goes to those who, with good intentions, stand in as defenders of the food under attack. Let us take the case of meat.  The fact of the matter is the risk and its potential increase. The alarm starts precisely from the concept of risk. However, if the consumer does not know what the risk of an event taking place is, he cannot understand what a 1% or 10% increase in risk means. Then fear spreads.

Soil degradation in Italy

Soil degradation is a major environmental problem worldwide, and there is strong evidence that the soil degradation processes are an immediate threat to both biomass and economic returns, as well as a long-term threat to future crop yields. The vulnerability of the European soils to the degradation processes is certainly high and it strongly increases in the Italian soils due to the higher variability of the environment.
21.3% of the national soil cover is at risk of desertification (41.1% of centre and south Italy).
Main soil degradation processes are erosion, flooding and landslides, losses of organic matter, sealing, aridity, contamination and salinization following the impact of human activities. 
Soil degradation during the last 40 years caused a decrease of about 30% in their water holding capacity and a proportional shortening of the return time of catastrophic events.
Soil degradation has also caused an impairment of several other eco-services, e.g., quality of foods and landscape. 

At the European level the estimated costs of some aspects of the soil degradation can be the following:
erosion: 0.7 – 14.0 billion €,
organic matter decline: 3.4 – 5.6 billion €,
salinisation: 158 – 321 million €,
landslides: up to 1.2 billion € per event,
contamination: 2.4 – 17.3 billion €,

Since agricultural conventional production systems have resulted in excessive erosion and soil degradation, there is need to control and fight such degradation.
Scientific results have clearly showed that the agricultural management systems can play an important role in preventing soil degradation provide that appropriate management practices are adopted. Long-term field experiments in different types of soils have shown that alternative tillage systems, like minimum tillage, ripper subsoiling, etc., improve the soil structural quality.

From farm cooperation to territory building: a French case study

For several years, the Laboratory GAIA of the Academy of Georgofili has promoted a research based upon a comparison between Tuscans and European experiences representing different rural governance pattern and organizational arrangements, thanks to the financial support of the Tuscany Region. The case of the cooperative Fermes de Figeac is one of those studied in the last year. It sheds a new light on how the cooperative pattern in France is changing, how the link between farms and rural community may result in, and how agricultural cooperation can fulfil the challenges the European rural policy have to face. The cooperative since 1985 offers provision and technical services to the farms in the cantons of Figeac, Lacapelle-Marival, Latronquière, Souscyrac, a rural region at the foot of the Massif Central, in the Midi-Pyrénées Region, south-west France. It comes from a history of marginality where agriculture has been the main activity for many time, and the most relevant agricultural activity is still ovine and bovine breeding. Nowadays, the area due its growth mostly to the well-known industrial cluster of aero industry, stemmed from the helicopter’s inventor at the early twentieth century. Moreover, tourist activity has been also emerging, as several cities and historical places are in the “Road of Saint James of Compostela”, one of the major Christian pilgrimage route. Hence, keeping a vital agricultural activity and achieve workforce has turned out to be more difficult in the last decades, so the cooperative has chosen its own mission: to be a cooperative for the territory and to engage itself for the local sustainable development. This is a hard statement as in France the code rural makes compulsory the ancrage territorial, that is, the choice of a bounded area where to operate. Fermes de Figeac, therefore, has widely differentiated the economic activities by adding to the original core business new investments for renewable energies, such as a photovoltaic park able to provide energy to the entire region, or the aeolic park. 

Sensory communications among insects

The biological activities of animals, including insects, plants and micro-organisms are regulated by sensory communications, which differ according to their ecology, ethology, morphology, and physiology. Sensory communications are mediated by sensory organs, which, in the insects, consist of the integument and one or more bipolar sensory neurons. Sensory communications among insects can be classified in: tactile, visual, acoustic and chemical communications. Courtship, in both solitary and social insects, is performed by direct contact between individuals and is regulated by chemical stimuli. In social insects, such as ants and termites, antennal tapping is also an essential component of courtship communication signals. The language of bees-(called "dance") consists of sounds and chemical messages mediated by the chemoreceptor sensilla, and involves harmonically the whole family. The "dance" represents a symbolic language that allows a worker bee to inform other bees about the location of the family, the source of nourishment, and its abundance and distance from the hive. Almost all of the adult insects are equipped with sensilla photoreceptors. 

“Global Warming is not an opinion. Common sense is needed”

Here follows Elena Dusi’s interview with Giampiero Maracchi, president of the Georgofili Academy, published in La Repubblica on Sunday, 5 December 2015

Global Olive Oil Consumption Slips 7 Percent

Four new sites designated Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems for innovation, sustainability and adaptability

6th International Chestnut Symposium

Urban trees and carbon dioxide sequestration

It is now well known that trees sequester and store CO2 by fixing carbon in permanent forms of biomass. The amount of gas exchange between a tree and the atmosphere changes depending on the age and health status of the tree itself, but the overall net balance of a patch of vegetation in equilibrium with the surrounding environment can be considered stable in time. This balance, however, is altered by man through some factors such as the increase of fossil fuel emissions and the relationship between the crop and the utilization of biomass. In this regard, the peri-urban forests, city parks and gardens, serving as CO2 sinks, play a vital role in combating the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
For these reasons, the managers of urban green areas are considering whether projects of planting trees in urban areas can be financed through the carbon market (Carbon Trading is a market based mechanism for helping mitigate the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Carbon trading markets are developed that bring buyers and sellers of carbon credits together with standardized rules of trade), especially since it is now a market internationally accredited and somewhat preferred by the buyers (Poudyal et al. 2011). The biggest concern about the projects on planting trees in urban areas and the question we should answer is whether these projects are cost-efficient investments.
A better understanding of how the variables predominantly affect the efficiency of these programs could help in understanding if we can intervene with the management decisions to improve the project or if uncontrollable variables such as climate, play a major role in determining the potential for integration of such projects in the carbon credits markets.
For urban green managers it is also important to know how to create potentially new and more efficient projects in terms of cost; even if the projects will not reach the market, these studies are of great interest to government agencies that voluntarily seek to minimize emissions of the entire community by also making a budget of carbon allowances produced and emitted.

Pessimism does not help

At the closing session of the series of meetings organized at Expo 2015 by Intesa San Paolo, Prof. Jared Diamond from the University of California, 1997 Pulitzer Prize winner, paused over environmental sustainability and the growing gap between the rich and the poor both within individual countries and all over the planet. The press appeared to have understood a strong pessimism, reporting with scaremongering headlines the opinion that we are heading towards the extinction of the entire human race and that the only possible defense is to reduce consumption.
It is only right and proper to make us aware of the risks that are looming over our survival. They are many and include, for example, air pollution and climate change, the disastrous food insecurity and water shortages, the geopolitical confusion and insane abuses that lead to conflicts with ever more devastating weapons, moral disorder that spreads lawlessness, organized crime, corruption, etc., destroying common sense and reason. The risks created by these realities must not however lead to a destructive overall pessimism and inactivity, but rather stimulate our strength of mind to seek new positive ideas, not related to past ideologies based on rules that create poverty.
There are certainly many reasons of concern on which to reflect. But there is no longer time for ideological fights and political disputes. We must make use of past experiences and common sense. While easy manifestations of pessimism, although authoritative and directed at getting attention, can only increase the already widespread distrust of so many people who are by now tired and defeatist (see the decreasing number of election votes).

Paleosols, soils and climate change

Paleosols are an important source of information for documenting the changes that took place in the past, especially as regards the climate. In addition, they can be used in models that seek to predict how the earth’s system will react in the future to the changing environmental conditions. A central objective of paleopedology is to reconstruct how the climate changed during the geological eras.
A paleosol complex was found at Podere Renieri in Montalcino (Siena). About 40 m thick, it was formed during a series of continental episodes that began after marine sediments were deposited during the Pliocene starting at 4.8 My BP. The paleosol documents climate changes and soil formations that took place since the Lower Pliocene in central Italy, along the Mediterranean coast.
Podere Renieri’s most characteristic soil horizons are those containing plinthite, a partially hardened soil rich in iron whose formation took place in a hot and humid climate over about 700,000 years during the Lower Pliocene. This soil formation was also greatly influenced by the geomorphological position of the paleosol, at that time located on an alluvial fan near the coast. The climate conditions during the Pliocene were much hotter and more humid than nowadays, and the time needed for plinthite formation was rather short, not more than one or two hundred thousand years. Podere Renieri’s morphology of plinthite-containing horizons however shows that from the middle of the Lower Pliocene, rainfall started to give clear signs of seasonality as a result of the onset of a Mediterranean-type climate along the western coast of Italy.

New editions related to olive oil and table olives

The bibliography for the biological activity of some minor compounds of olive and olive oil becomes more extensive every day, and a vast amount of published material has been accumulated. Two new books by researchers of the world's most prestigious universities explore the recent knowledge development on olive oil and table olives bioactive constituents and properties of olive oil as a specialty oil and its use in food. The common ground between them, the presence of Prof. Dimitrios Boskou as Editor and author.
Dimitrios Boskou received his diploma and doctor’s degree in chemistry from the School of Chemistry, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Hellas; his Ph.D.in Food Science from the University of London; and a Doctor of Science degree from the School of Chemistry, Aristotle University. He served as an assistant lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor, professor, and head of the Laboratory of Food Chemistry and Technology, School of Chemistry, Aristotle University (1970–2006). In the period from 1986 to 1998 he was a member of the IUPAC Oils, Fats, and Derivatives Commission. He served as a member of the Supreme Chemical Council, Athens (1995–2005), and a member of the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Commission and an expert of the Food Additives Panel of the European Food Safety Authority (1995–2012).
Dr. Boskou has published over 90 papers and reviews. He is the editor of 7 books and the author of 20 chapters in books related to the major and minor constituents of fats, natural antioxidants, olive oil, and heated fats, published in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, India, and Croatia. He is also a contributor to international scientific encyclopedias and the Lexicon of Lipid Nutrition, a joint IUPAC/IUNS work.
Maria Lisa Clodoveo, corresponding Member of Academy of Georgofili, has co-authored two chapters.

European Parliament Rejects National GMO Bans Proposal

Wednesday October 28, 2015, The European Parliament approved by 577 votes to 75, with 38 abstentions the recommendation, presented by the rapporteur Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT), to reject the draft EU law that would have allowed any EU member state to ban or restrict the sale or use of EU-approved GM product in its territory. Parliament Members were concerned that if the law was approved, it would have led to reintroduction of border checks between pro- and anti-GMO countries. 
The law could have had negative consequences for agriculture in the EU, which is heavily dependent on protein supplies from GMO sources. It could also have indirect negative effects on imports. Finally, there were concerns over whether this proposal could even be implemented, because there are no border controls in the EU, 
Parliament Members call on the Commission to table a new proposalabout the issue.
European Commissioner for Health and Food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said that the European Commission will not withdraw the legislative proposal, which will be discussed by EU ministers.

Preservation of agricultural landscape Vs food security

Some Italian regions are enforcing autonomous “regional-landscape schemes” (without excluding agricultural land), erroneously referring to our Constitution that obviously could not deal with “landscape protection” without considering what was expected by the laws in force at that time in our country that wisely and clearly excluded agrarian land.
The idea of also “safeguarding” agrarian land came out only in the final decades of the 20th century with the political increase of European environmentalists and their abuse of power even in the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). These are requests which we can all share as regards those principles designed to properly protect a habitat in which it is possible to survive but without abandoning the equally important production of food.
Instead, at the beginning of 2000, the "Codice Urbani" was published in Italy; it used the term “Conservation of agricultural landscape”, an expression that must be understood to have only one possible and feasible meaning, namely, as requiring the “land use conservation of the rapidly diminishing arable lands. The subsequent attempts to impose a static utopia on agricultural activities thus seem focused precisely on annulling the freedom of businesses (not just farms) by opposing their ongoing need to adapt and change products and techniques according to the changing needs of the times and the markets. Instead all the risks, production costs and taxes have been left to the businesses while imposing (through spurious mandatory landscape planning measures decided at the top) what, how and where to cultivate, and moreover with no assumption of responsibility and the consequent proper indemnities. 

Cosimo Ridolfi (28 November 1794 - 5 March 1865)

This year, 2015, is the 150th anniversary of Cosimo Ridolfi’s death. He became a full Georgofili member at a very young age, in 1813. He was later the secretary of the proceedings, vice-president and then, starting in 1842, president until his death.
Ridolfi was involved in the Academy during the most important decades of the 19th century, when the great events that changed the history of our country took place. He was an authoritative and constant role model, not only more specifically in agronomics (where he was a great innovator), but also in the social, civil and political arenas.
His life was totally dedicated to improving agriculture and agrarian practices. A born educator, he never separated life from experience and education and he fully embodied the spirit of the motto “Prosperitati Publicae Augendae” of the Georgofili Academy, the oldest in the world for agricultural studies.

Site Security (SS) and Food Defense: beyond Food Safety

The issue of voluntary food contamination  has been a problem for a long time. Over the last few decades, cases of food product sabotage have been published in media worldwide, and has raised worry and concern in public opinion. Awareness of progressive growth of global food distribution – and of the related potential risks for contamination - has been further fuelled by the Universal Exposition (EXPO 2015) in Milan, Italy which is dedicated to the theme “feeding the planet” this year. 

Andrea Sisti elected world president of agronomists

Georgofili member Andrea Sisti, head of the Consiglio dell’Ordine dei Dottori Agronomi e Forestali (FIDAF), has been elected president of the AMIA-WAA, World Association of Agronomists,  and, with the passing of the baton at the 6th world congress held in the past few days at EXPO, he will lead the association for the next four years (2015-2019).
The general secretary, Mattia Busti, is also from Italy.

On the need and the possibilities to reduce water use in agriculture

Agriculture is the economic activity with the highest water demand. Worldwide it uses about 70% of the available water resources, percentage largely overcome in the developing countries (FAO, 2006).The water use efficiency is approximatively equal or even lower  than 50%. In addition, actual water availability in agriculture is expected to decrease in the next few years due to the increasing competition with domestic and industrial uses and climate changes. 
In addition, due to the continuous increase of the world population and the marked increase in water demand, mainly in emerging countries, to meet the demand for food over the next three decades,  food production will need to rise by 70% (FAO, 2013).

From the Earth to the Moon … and beyond

What Jules Verne’s book From the Earth to the Moon recounted in 1865, the year of its publication, seemed nothing more than pure imagination. Yet it came true one century later with man setting foot on a different planet for the first time. Since the first moon-landing up till today, enormous progress has been made in our knowledge of space. 2015 has been a fundamental year vis-à-vis space exploration because the extreme boundary of our solar system has been reached by the American space probe New Horizons that, ten years after its departure, has been able to photograph Pluto. The sad aspect of this thrilling milestone is that, at least for now, the journey towards more distant planets stops here. In fact, it would take 70,000 years to reachProxima Centauri, the star closest to the sun, which is the time equivalent of 3,000 human generations. This should not discourage us though. If anything, it should be an incentive to better investigate what we have within our own solar system.

Pale Lager Clarification Using Novel Ceramic Hollow-Fiber Membranes

The beer industry is potentially interested to replace conventional diatomaceous earth (DE) filters with crossflow microfiltration (CFMF) systems to get rid of the environmental and safety concerns connected with filter-aid handling and spent filter sludge disposal. 

Since the year 2000, rough beer clarification may be carried out by resorting to three different membrane systems, namely those proposed by Norit Membrane Technology/Heineken Technical Service, Alfa-Laval AB/Sartorius AG, and Pall Food & Beverage/Westfalia Food Tech. Whereas the Norit/Heineken or Pall Food & Beverage CFMF units consist of polyethersulfone (PES) hollow-fiber modules with pore size of 0.50 or 0.65 ?m, respectively; the Alfa-Laval/Sartorius CFMF units are made of PES flat-sheet cassettes with pore size of 0.60 ?m. The main problem with such systems is that the average beer permeation flux through PES membrane modules is about a fifth of that (250-500 L m-2 h-1) obtained with powder filters.

Vegetables Fried in Extra Virgin Olive Oil More Nutritionally Beneficial than Boiled

Genetic makeup of thousands of rice varieties placed in global seed data pool

The Milan Charter, doubts and certainties

EXPO 2015 has been a great opportunity for Italy to offer the world a forum for tackling a fundamentally important theme for humankind, that of food, with the focus, at least since Milan was first chosen as the exhibition seat, on two main topics as well as their many off-shoots: the present state of food that still today, as regards quantity, does not meet the world’s needs, and a future one that seems to imply an ever greater need as a result of population growth and per capita consumption.
The exhibition, however, has taken a very different path. As was predictable, taking into consideration the exhibitors’ economic and commercial interests and the necessity of all exhibitions to be a fantastic world to attract visitors and business. High hopes regarding respect for the basic issues were placed on the Milan Charter, a document that should have included thoughts, suggestions, and commitments concerning the search for answers on the overall theme of food. 

Carbon Footprint of a pale lager

Energy and water consumption, waste generation, and emissions to air are the main environmental issues of the brewing industry. Thus, the beverage sector has started implementing strategies to reduce its impact on the global climate, as focused for instance by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable on the basis of the sensitivity of the beer Global Warming Potential (GWP) to variations in material or process practice aspects (such as packaging material selection, distribution logistics, recycling rates, etc.) in either Europe or North America.

Mass propagation of giant reed (Arundo donax L.), an invasive species suitable for biomass production

Arundo donax (L.), known also as giant reed, is a perennial rhizomatous species which has recently been indicated as the most suitable for the production of biomass to be converted in heat, electricity and biofuel, as well as for the recovering of soils contaminated with heavy metals. Regardless the objectives and the agronomical implications of its cultivation, a crucial problem not yet solved is how to propagate efficiently young plants to be utilized for industrial plantations establishment.

Saverio Manetti and his treatise “On different wheat species and bread as well as bread-making”

Georgofili member Saverio Manetti, one of the eighteen founders of the Florentine Academy, was among the first who attempted to find a solution to the hunger that followed the terrible, recurrent famines in past centuries, characterized especially by the loss of wheat and thus of the main food, bread.
In his treatise On different wheat species and bread as well as bread-making, published in Florence in 1765, he not only analyzed wheat and its varieties, flour and the bread-making process, different kinds of bread, its other unusual types for packaging, baking, and shape. He also analyzed bread made with flours other than wheat flour, extensively describing the bread’s appetizing effect and the pleasure that gladdened the tables of both the rich and the poor. He finally examined the “faults” of flour and bread, its varieties in other populations, seeds, fruits, and plants suited to making bread when there was a wheat shortage. 

Pollen allergies: the AIS LIFE Project

In 2014 there was an increase in the number of people suffering from allergic rhinitis (World Allergy Organization), the growth of which has been linked particularly to climatic variations. In fact the rise in temperature of approximately a half degree centigrade is very significant for plants that tend to prolong the period of pollination, i.e., the production and release of pollen granules in the atmosphere. With some species having earlier flowering periods and others doubling the number of pollinations during the year, it has become a real health problem for the 18 million Italians who suffer from pollen allergies. The pollination period is a particularly difficult time for children as well. According to recent studies, allergies are also linked to a drop in academic performance because of poor sleep and trouble concentrating.

In Italy, allergic rhinitis has risen to 25.8% in the population. Allergic rhinitis and asthma have a significant economic impact on patients, their families, and society in general. The reasons for this increased susceptibility to developing allergies are still unclear, but life-style and environmental factors such as the exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollutants and the now proven synergy between pollen and pollutants certainly play a major role in triggering and favoring the onset of allergies. 

Knowing mushrooms

Culinary mushrooms, mostly members of the Basidiomycetes class of macrofungi, are rich in high quality protein, polysaccharides, vitamins and minerals (potassium, calcium, and magnesium), fibre and other bioactive compounds, but low in fat and sodium. 
In brief some culinary/edible mushrooms  may be considered “functional foods”, a term reported by Martirosyan (2011) recognizing “a natural or processed food that contains known biologically-active compounds which in defined quantitative and qualitative amounts provides a clinically proven and documented health benefit, and thus, an important source in the prevention, management and treatment of chronic diseases of the modern age” . 

The impact of introduced exotic insect plant pests on Italian urban forest trees

More than 500 insect pests in the Italian ecosystems are considered to be exotic (DISIE, 2008). About 200 of these species have been introduced and have established themselves in Italy since 1970. The intensification of plant trade between Italy and geographically distant commercial partners is considered to be one of the main causes of these introductions. Climatic abnormalities have also favored the spread and acclimation of these exotic organisms. Climatic change influences directly the establishment of poikilothermic insects by favoring the survival of a great number of introduced individuals or indirectly through the alterations induced in host phenology. 

EU Agriculture Committee objects to national bans on imports of GMO foodstuffs and feed

Grape Waste Could Make Competitive Biofuel

International conference on child labour & Children's Rights in Education

Agriculture, soil management and prevention of hydrogeological instability – the farmer’s role

The correct management of agricultural and forestry land is fundamental for maintaining the environmental and climate balance at both local and global level and for reducing the risk of hydrogeological instability.
Farmers have always played a positive role in the Community, producing food and preserving the environment.
The agricultural sector is facing major challenges: producing more food to guarantee global food security and ensuring greater sustainability in the sector in the future. Against the backdrop of climate change, farmers are being asked to make additional efforts towards broad mitigation and adaptation actions. The challenges facing the sector will only be able to be met with more agriculture and more farmers and, in particular, by way of the family-farming model.
We need to recognize the value of farmers as ‘custodians’, for their multi-functional activities and the way they protect the land, and take into account the central role played by the economic sustainability of agricultural holdings. 
Strong opposition is needed to land consumption and the abandonment of marginal agricultural areas and more focus must be placed on research and innovation. We also need investments which help to develop mechanisms to encourage farmers and their families to apply best practices. Here, new European instruments under the second pillar of the CAP could provide an important incentive. However, the benefits of greening are less clear and it seems instead simply to put at risk the already fragile economic situation on farms.

IUFRO Tree Biotechnology 2015 Conference

There is a growing worldwide demand for wood and biomass in response to the needs of the society (paper, energy, etc.), and therefore we are witnessing an increase in forest plantations of high productivity (e.g. poplar and eucalyptus). The latest developments in biotechnology applications will contribute to meeting the global demands of the society by helping to preserve the natural forests and reducing deforestation of large forest areas important for the ecosystem preservation.
The IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference is held every two years and is the official meeting of the IUFRO Working Group 2.04.06 (Molecular biology of forest trees). The year 2015 is the thirtieth anniversary of its initial gathering in 1985 in the U.S. (Avon Lake, Ohio), and for the first time organized in Italy, returning to Europe after 8 years. 
This conference has brought together academics, scientists, public and private institutions of international, national and regional, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to discuss all aspects of biotechnology and biosafety of forest trees. 
The “IUFRO Tree Biotechnology” has offered a unique opportunity to share information and experiences, and to engage in an open and meaningful dialogue on the state of research.
The main theme of the conference was “Forests: the importance to the planet and society” and how to preserve it in the light of global climate change to meet the growing demands of society for sustainable resources, renewable energy and biomass production.

Florence meets Morocco: Jakob Gråberg från Hemsö and the “Antique Mauretania Tingitana”

In 1834 in Genoa, the presses of the Pellas printing works produced theSpecchio geografico, e statistico dell’impero di Marocco by Jakob Gråberg från Hemsö.
The book was dedicated to His Royal and Imperial Highness Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany and summarized, although with additions and notes, the writings previously published in the review Antologia del Vieusseux and the five memoirs that Gråberg had sent to the Georgofili (as a correspondent member) from 1829 to 1833 about the “Ancient Mauretania Tingitana”, that is: Alcuni cenni dell’agricoltura nell’Impero di Marocco (An Outline of Agriculture in the Moroccan Empire), 2 August 1829;   Descrizione dell’aratro di cui si fa uso nell’Impero del Marocco (A Description of the Plough used in the Moroccan Empire), 7 February 1830;  Della pastorizia nell’impero di Marocco (On Sheep Farming in the Moroccan Empire), 7 March 1830; Cenni orografici e geologici dello impero di Marocco (An Orographic and Geologic Outline of the Moroccan Empire), 5 December 1830; Prospetto del commercio del Marocco e sue relazioni con i popoli dell’Italia (Statement on Morocco’s commerce and its relationships with the peoples of Italy), 4 August 1833. 
Gråberg från Hemsö (Gannarve, Sweden 1776-Florence 1847) was a man in and of the world. His vast erudition and voracious “curiosity” spurred him, from an early age, not only to study languages (he knew Greek, Latin, French, English, German, and Italian as well as Arabic to perfection), ancient history, sacred history, geography, statistics, natural history, architecture, mechanics, mathematics, astronomy, but also to embark on a naval career, sailing all the seas and oceans. 
Once he stopped working at sea and settled in Genoa, his experience enabled him to publish a pocket marine dictionary in English and Italian, which was very successful and had numerous reprints in Genoa, Leghorn, Florence and Messina.

Beyond the traditional virgin olive oil extraction systems: searching innovative and sustainable plant engineering solutions – An Ultrasound-Assisted extraction process.

The results of an experimentation conducted during the last harvesting season in collaboration with Alfa Laval, Weal srl and Olio Aloia.

The aim of virgin olive oil elaboration process is to obtain the highest recovery of the best quality oil from the fruits. The aim of the researchers is to understand the key elements that allow to modulate the complex series of physical, physico-chemical, chemical and biochemical transformations in order to develop innovative and sustainable plant solutions able to increase simultaneously both yield and quality of product. Currently the systems for mechanically extracting virgin oils from olives are basically of two types: discontinuous-type systems (obsolete and dying out) and continuous-type systems. Systems defined as “continuous-type” are generally comprised of a mechanical crusher, a malaxer and a horizontal-axis centrifugal separator (decanter). The “continuous” appellation refers to the fact that two (mechanical crusher and decanter) out of the three machines making up the system operate continuously; the malaxer, which actually is a machine working in batches, is located between these two continuous apparatuses. 

A FULL IMMERSION COURSE ON EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL SPONSORED BY THE ACADEMY OF GEORGOFILI, ASSISI, 3-9 SEPTEMBER 2015

ENEA Introduces Italy’s First Vertical Farm: Agriculture 3.0 has arrived

In the future, how will salad be cultivated in a city without large areas of land being available? The various innovative solutions to meet the growing demand for food and fight against waste also includes the vertical farm, a greenhouse almost 5 meters high to test version 3.0 of the agriculture of the future with zero pesticides, zero food-miles, and zero soil consumption. Carried out by the Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), Italy’s first vertical farm was inaugurated on Friday, 10 July, at Expo. 

Ten 3-year Ph.D. positions in Bonn starting September 2015

The American Phytopathological Society supports the italian researchers on Xylella

Hundreds of Restaurants Get New ‘MedDiet’ Label

Wars or food: an unacceptable alternative

It seems to me that, given the rebel conflicts besetting the Middle East and parts of Africa that are involving the whole world, it would be more than appropriate to encourage and support agricultural production systems in Europe – and in other developed countries – in order to make abundantly available those basic commodities needed to feed everybody. It would be necessary therefore to draw on the “common values” that also coincides with the necessity of giving real answers to problems that cannot be solved with violence. 
In fact, looking at the situation, it goes from the bombs on Iraq and Syria to the pseudo-democratic revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia caused not so much by a desire for freedom as by the rise in the price of wheat due to the 2010 Russian ban on exports following a devastating fire in the steppes west of the Urals. Add to that the massacres in Libya and in the Islamic Caliphate that thrives in a land of poverty and ignorance as well as the despair of the Eritreans and the Somalis and, together with the events in Nigeria, you will have a tragic picture of the situation in a significant part of the world.
The answer to the turmoil in the Middle East and the menaces to security in the US and, to a lesser degree, in Europe, consists actually in choosing a lesser evil (repression and the techniques used Guantanamo on the alleged terrorists) compared to the greater evil (danger that the attacks will spread throughout the developed countries and be beyond control). Starting from the 21st-century terrorist attacks, the Canadian politician, and human rights expert Ignatieff recognizes the necessity of violating some basic rights to protect the state’s interest, understood as the general interest. In an age when the risk of attacks is very high he – and many Americans with him – does not seem to understand the difficulty of identifying the limit of this “lesser evil” choice and the extreme importance of the question of who has the power, right and legitimacy to choose.

Problems to control grapevine Flavescence dorèe

The Flavescence dorèe disease of grapevine (FD), first recorded in Italy in 1973, became of serious economic importance since the Eighties of the past century by spreading epidemically from the eastern to the western area of the Po Valley. Its outbreak  was attributed to the appearance and rapid diffusion of new, more aggressive isolates of the phytoplasma agent such as those named FD-C and –D respectively. Measures to control the disease established with a Decree of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture (May 31st, 2000) consisted on eradicating the infected plants and spraying insecticides against its leafhopper vector,Scaphoideus titanus. In a few years, these yielded satisfactory results in the eastern (Friuli, Veneto) but not in the western area of north Italy, particularly in Piedmont. This  is presently the region most severely affected by FD in the provinces of Asti and of Cuneo ( more locally) both of which are of outstanding importance for the production of world-wide appreciated red vines, e.g. Barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco. The failure to contain the FD spread in Piedmont so far is due to the fact that the practice of viticulture in this region is decreased drastically in the last few decades  causing many vineyards to be abandoned and thus become ideal sites for the multiplication and spreading of both the disease and its insect vector.  

Searching for alternative control means, attention has now been turned to genetic resistance and induced resistance. In the former case, work to detect resistance or tolerance genes is in progress in several Institutions and early results are being achieved. In the latter case, a peculiar procedure based on both field and laboratory work has been followed. Basically, non symptomatic vine plants were selected in heavily FD-affected vineyards, their root symbionts were identified and isolated in pure cultures. They were then tested experimentally for their capability to inhibit MLOs multiplication, either individually or in combination of two or more. The species/combinations of interest were then multiplied in the laboratory and used to produce biological fertilizers to be distributed to grapevine roots. 

"On the utility of a common currency in the various European countries, and the difficulties that stand in the way of its implementation" *1

On 23 March 1872, Bartolomeo Cini read to the Georgofili a memorandum on the introduction of a single currency in the European states and the difficulties that interfered with its implementation. Entrepreneur and scholar of economic and financial issues, Bartolomeo Cini (1809-1877), analyzing the situation at the time – characterized by the high cost of money, powerful speculative pressures, and the strong commitment of capital in enterprises –confirmed the principle that governments were responsible only for the task of providing security to their own populace and identified as the first important corrective action the introduction of a currency "common to all the states of Europe" ("The utility of a common currency in different countries that, between themselves, have continuous business relations and movement of people, is in itself so evident that spending time to demonstrate it would, in truth, seem to me to be pointless.").

Though taken for "a utopian dream", Cini wrote, the idea had already been voiced as far back as 1582 by Gasparo Scaruffi from Reggio (1519-1584), who envisaged a single currency in pure gold and silver that could be "compared" to all the existing currencies, so as to overcome the "great confusion" generated by the excess money in circulation at that time *2.  Scaruffi’s proposal however, was not acted upon.
Cini was aware of the difficulties that hindered the carrying out of such a plan, by individuals resistant "to changing rather long–standing habits, in the infinite number of calculations that are done at all times", to the necessity of establishing rules under which the new currency would have weight, size, and a material common to each State, namely, that it would always have "the same standard."

Biodiversity and its Preservation

Biodiversity is a hymn to the comprehensive meaning of the nature that surrounds humankind and which we have been called to admire, use, improve, and preserve for ourselves and future generations. The beauty, harmony, and complexity of this world and its landscapes have been cherished, portrayed, and enriched by human works. Poets, painters, scientists, singers, and even simple tourists have sought out the most fabulous landscapes that, unfortunately, are more often at risk because of the human interventions that, knowingly or not, cause serious damage to nature's beauties. 
Biodiversity gives life continuity as it permits ecosystems to adapt, overcoming the changes of natural events by ensuring a population’s fitness or biological success and its ability to synchronize with environmental changes over space and time by protecting ecosystems from the damage caused by changes in the environment. The plant and animal species populating an ecosystem have as a common characteristic harmony with the environment and they influence each other. However, their complexity lets them adapt to a variety of climates and pathogens as well as to their own and human dietary need, and have a positive relation to the ecosystem’s productivity as they use completely different resources.

The Information of the future is hi-tech

Last May in Bagnaia (Siena), a two-day conference on the theme“Growing Between the Lines” took place. It is an undertaking that, for some years, has been dedicated to the issues of publishing and journalism in the new digital era. Publishers and editors of the most important American and Italian newspapers participated, including Jeff Bewes (CEO, Time-Warner), Davan Maharaj (Editor, Los Angeles Times), Dean Baquet (Executive Editor, New York Times) Pietro Scott Jovane (CEO,  RCS) Ernesto Mauri (CEO, Mondadori), Gerard Baker (Editor-in-Chief, Wall Street Journal), and Martin Baron (Editor, Washington Post). 
It was an opportunity for competitor publishers and journalists to work together and compare ideas looking for the best way to adapt to the rapid changes taking place in the communication world, i.e., a race against time to keep up with the public’s demands.

Expo 2015’s first month

The first month of Expo 2015 has just ended, with various ideas on the theme “Feeding the Planet: energy for life” already emerging. I will mention just a few.
During Caritas Day, with the 84 countries participating (mainly from Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East), opinions critical of a general increase in the world’s food production came out. Instead, it was suggested that small local communities in poor countries be put in a position for them to produce the food they need rather than buy it. As a matter of fact some poor countries have already tried this approach and, overcoming periods of emergency, they have become exporters of food commodities.
The Indian Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winner in economics and professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard, expressed the opinion that the real problem to be considered is poverty from which hunger always derives. He therefore considered it limiting to talk about food shortages without analyzing the causes of hunger.

Luminescent Algae Signals Global Warming

Xylella fastidiosa: control according to the European Union

A challenging job: plant pathology in the urban environment

According to Agrios (2005), “Plant pathology is a science that studies plant diseases and attempts to improve the chances for survival of plants when they are faced with unfavorable environmental conditions and parasitic microorganisms that cause disease”. So, it is a discipline that has a practical and noble goal of protecting the food (quantity and quality) available for humans and animals. Nowadays to this crucial task at least another mission must be added: “to ensure the presence of well performing and safe plants (especially trees) in our cities”. This is because plant diseases, by their presence, menace the survival of the plants, shorten their life expectancy and make them dangerous in the urban environment representing a limiting factor for citizen’s security.
At world level, far more than 50% of human beings currently live in an urban area and at least 70% will live there in the year 2050. Cities are similar to an organism in that they consume resources from their surroundings and excrete wastes. Urbanization concentrates people, materials and energy into relatively small geographical areas (cities and towns are estimated to be less than a mere 3% of the total land of our planet), whose environmental conditions are often critical. Quality of life in cities relies on a range of components, such as social equity, income and welfare, housing, social relations and education and a healthy environment. The environmental elements for an adequate quality of life include good air quality, low noise levels, clean and sufficient water, fair urban design with sufficient and high-quality public and green spaces, and a good local climate or opportunities to adapt to climate change. Urban trees provide a number of important (but not easily quantified) aesthetic, economic, and psychological benefits (“ecosystem services”) for humans. They increase property values, promote tourism, provide educational opportunities, encourage healthy life styles and outdoor activities, improve the visual appeal of urban areas, mitigate stress and encourage biological diversity. But trees, just as all other plants, may be sick and attacked by biotic and abiotic stress factors, and a diseased tree may represent an intolerable risk factor for human welfare.

Richard Cobden and the “healthy propensity for peace”

2015 – a year of anniversaries and of events.
Among the first anniversaries are the 100th anniversary of Italy’s disastrous entry into the First World War on 24 May 1915, the 70th of the Liberation from German occupation, and the 150th of Florence as capital of the new unified Italy. As for events, we clearly think immediately of “EXPO 2015, Feed the Planet, Energy for Life”, which opened just a few days ago and which is probably the biggest media event of the year.
However 2015 marks another anniversary that perhaps most people do not know of, the anniversary of Richard Cobden’s death, the English father of liberalism and a promoter of free trade among nations, on 2 April 1865.
Faithful to its origins, the Florentine Georgofili Academy could not help but admire the man who tried to steer England from an ironclad protectionist policy to broader horizons characterized by the cooperation and generosity between peoples.   

Xylella: a modern italian tale

Once upon a time  there was an enchanted corner of southern Italy, the Salento peninsula, which lived  happily and  was proud of the sea of majestic olive trees that embellished its landscape.  On a bad day,  this blessed spot woke up  with  what looked like a minor problem, i.e. a group of declining plants in an olive grove next to Gallipoli,  a small town on the Ionian coast of the province of Lecce. The “minor problem” soon turned into a major nightmare,  as the decline  began spreading like fire  over an ever increasing  acreage. The cry of pain of the growers who saw their  orchards withering and desiccating did not escape the attention of a group of  knights (i.e. plant pathologists of the University of Bari and of  an outfit of the Italian Research Council) whose daily good deed and committment is the safeguard of  plant health. These knights, promptly wore the  shining armours, jumped on their fiery steeds,  and  rushed  to the aid of the desperate villagers.  In  a short lapse of time the gallant knights,  working like dogs in the field and laboratory,   identified Xylella fastidiosa -a nasty little bacterium and  an American “cadeau”-,  as the one of the major  if not the only cause of the decline.  Highly dependable dectection protocols were developed, the bacterium was isolated in pure culture, its taxonomic allocation (a peculiar divergent strain of X. fastidiosa subsp. pauca)  was determined and confirmed upon sequencing of the whole genome (a DNA molecule 2,514,616 base pair in size), its site of origin (Costa Rica) was hypothesized based on molecular evidence,  a spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius) was identified as the major vector, several infected alternative hosts (trees and shrubs) were found, and pathogenicity tests were initiated.

Valorization of autochthonous fruit genetic resources in Italy: genetic traits for breeding programmes

The Italian competence on Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) for food and agriculture is shared between the Ministry of Agriculture (MiPAAF) and the Regions which, thanks to the Rural Development Programmes (RDP) 2000-2006 and 2007-2013, have taken advantage of important financial support to dedicate to activities targeted at the realization of the objectives set out in the different international agreements to which Italy is a Member State.
The FAO International Treaty (IT) on PGR for food and agriculture has been ratified by Italy in 2004; the respective national law entrusts the competences to achieve the objectives of the Treaty to Regions and authonomous Provinces. The Ministry of Agriculture maintains the international coordination, while regional activities are dedicated to the recovery, characterization, conservation and valorization of PGR. The new Rural Development Programme 2014-2021 will continue to support the national activities in this regard.

Sourdough ecophysiology to better guide the industrial processing

Sourdough fermentation is one of oldest examples of a traditional biotechnology. Its use has been recently rediscovered for producing baked goods. A number of studies have used innovative techniques to focus on the ecophysiology of the sourdough lactic-acid bacteria. First, the lactic-acid bacteria of eighteen sourdoughs used for the manufacture of some traditional Italian leavened sweet baked goods were studied through culture-dependent methods and pyrosequencing. Although some species were identified in most of the products, a large diversity was highlighted as well as positive correlations found between some technology parameters and cell density and the main metabolites of lactic-acid bacteria (Lattanzi et al. 2013 Intern. J. Food Microbiol. 163:71-79). Bacterial ecology during rye and wheat sourdough preparation was described by a 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing.

Food and sustainability. The solution is the Market Transformation.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever quotes: “Many people have realized that the cost of inaction is often greater than the cost of action. We need partnerships across the industry – ones that probably haven’t happened before. Competitors need to say that it is in our own self interest that we move to sustainable sourcing, stop illegal deforestation and move to natural refrigerants. If the consumer goods industry does not move to a more sustainable model, most of its profits will be wiped out in 30 to 50 years, and if you are in food even earlier.”   That is what the CEO of one of the largest FMCG  multinational companies says about the business relevance of sustainable development and keeps repeating in all most important global forum events.

New canopy management practices for Tuscan Sangiovese vineyards

Biodiversity and diversity of forms: the new geometry of urban green

On the 8th of May during the Flora Firenze exposition, the Conference on Floriculture, Nursery and Green Planning organized of the Floriculture and Nursery Committee of the Georgofili Academy

An Olive Oil from Japan Wins Top Award

Detailed Genetic Map of World Wheat Varieties Developed

Expo: the oldest flour in the world, discovered in Tuscany, dates back to 30,000 years ago

It is the world's most ancient flour and it was discovered in Tuscany. This discovery – which has radically changed our understanding of Paleolithic humans and their diet – was presented in Florence at an event entitled The Earliest Flour in Tuscany – Origins of a Diet, aimed at exploring the subject of dietary evolution, set in the framework of Expo 2015.
The story began 30,000 years ago when a group of homo sapiens settled temporarily in the Bilancino area, on the banks of the Sieve River. Thousands of years passed until 1995-1996 when the area was to be flooded so as to create an artificial lake for use as the Bilancino reservoir.  A group of archaeologists discovered where a Paleolithic camp had been set up at one time later covered with silt by the Sieve. 

The olive quick decline syndrome in south-east Italy

The olive quick decline syndrome (OQDS) is a disease that appeared suddenly a few years ago in the province of Lecce, Salento peninsula (south-eastern Italy).  The major incitant of the disease is Xylella fastidiosa, a quarantine pathogen of American origin whose unwelcome  introduction in the area has created much disturbance because: (i) the dramatic damage suffered by the olive groves where the pathogen has established itself; (ii) the alarm that this finding has raised  in a  country (Italy) whose olive/oil industry is a primary asset,  and  in the European Union,  which is facing the first confirmed record in its territory of this alien and much feared  microorganism. 

OQDS is characterized by the presence of leaf scorching and desiccation of twigs and small branches, that prevail  first  in the upper part of the canopy (Fig. 1A),  then extend to the rest of the crown,  which  acquires a burned look (Fig. 1B). The more seriously affected plants are heavily pruned by the growers to favour new growth which,  however, is scanty and dessicates in a short while. The skeletal-looking trees push a multitude of suckers from the base (Fig. 1C) and survive for some time, i.e.  as long as the roots are viable.  
As to disease incidence, a rough estimate  indicates  that the  whole area where multiple  and disperse  OQDS foci occur  amounts to about 230,000 hectares. However, the infected surface area given over strictly to olive (i.e. the totality of the symptomatic olive groves taken together) may not exceed 9,000 hectares,  which accounts for  about one million plants. These are huge  numbers that are liable to increase over time,  considering that the infection  foci, which now  have a scattered  distribution,  will tend to coalesce.

Will genetically engineered apples still keep the doctor away?

An article recently published on The New York Times has brought the attention of the public opinion to newly generated transgenic apples that are resistant to turning brown when sliced or bruised. These apples are genetically engineered in a way to suppress the production of an enzyme that causes browning when cells in the apple are injured, from slicing, for example. They will decay naturally just like any other apple, but will not turn brown from bruising, cutting or biting – not in minutes, hours or days.
Any apple variety can be engineered to be a nonbrowning apple. Okanagan, the biotech that developed the fruit, decided to first convert two of the most popular apple varieties of all time, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. 

What is enzymatic browning?

Appearance is significantly impacted by colour and is one of the first attributes used by consumers in evaluating food quality. 
Polyphenoloxidase (PPO) - also referred to as phenoloxidase, phenolase, monophenol oxidase, diphenol oxidase and tyrosinase - is a copper-containing enzyme which catalyzes the conversion of phenolic substrates into brown-colored polymers and so plays an important role in the undesired browning of damaged tissues of fruits, vegetables and seafood. Moreover, enzymatic browning leads to nutritional losses due to the degradation of phenolic substrates and the decrease of their antioxidant capacity. In this regard, enzymatic browning is the main physiological disorder that impairs the sensory properties of minimally processed fruits and vegetables such as fresh-cut products which are characterized by an important and growing market.

Agricultural districts in the Italian Regions: looking toward 2020*

Agricultural, quality agro-food, supply-chain and rural districts (DAs) were introduced by Italian law in 2001. With reference to European structural policies, especially rural development policy, and to the districts’ originality and relationship to the LEADER method and programmes, we wonder whether they can still form a useful part of the new 2014-2020 programming period? The question is analysed in the wider context of international literature on socio-economic and economic policy, so as to stimulate broader interest, with a view to the future. A survey on national scale is presented, limited to the districts legally recognised by the Regions. A detailed historical reconstruction is given, offering a ‘reconstructive reading’ through which we clarify the actual nature of these districts, including their connections to clusters and industrial districts.  We also discuss how to better link the theoretical and the legal frameworks. And we examine the connection between the basic economic mechanisms of the district theory and how the Regions have implemented them in reality. To do this, we summarised the overall conceptual framework into a few basic components for our desk research. 

Life Cycle of Olive Husks and and Environmental Impact of Management Options

In EU Countries of the Mediterranean basin the solid wastes generated from the olive oil extraction process (2- or 3-phases or intermediate processes) pose a number of environmental, economic and social concern. The main management options for wet husks are (a) electric power generation, (b) domestic heating and (c) return to agriculture via composting. 82.5% of the world olive oil production takes place in the EU27, i.e. 2.34 vs. 2.84 million tonnes, respectively, the majority of which occurs in Spain (46%), Italy (16%), Greece (12%), Portugal (2%), France, Cyprus, Slovenia and Malta (≤ 1% each). The percentage rises to 94.1% of the world olive oil production, i.e. 2.63 million tonnes, if the non-EU Countries of the Mediterranean basin are included. In Italy olive trees are cultivated in 18 Regioni over 20, but 88.0% of the olive production, ca. 600.000 tonnes/year (2/3 extra-virgin and 37 DOP recognized in EU) is obtained in the Southern ones (Puglia, Calabria, Sicilia, Basilicata and Sardegna). Puglia has 267.203 olive farms, Sicily 196.352, Calabria 136.016, Campania 112.093, less in the others. Tuscany is contributing with 4%, i.e. 0.2 million tonnes/year to the national olive oil production.

Drosophila suzukii a new pest for wine grape

Grapes are amongst the dozens of host plant fruits that are attacked by Drosophila suzukii (Matsumura). The first report of attacks of D. suzukii on grape dates back to 1925 in Japan. Recordings of D. suzukii on grapes were made subsequent to its recent invasion into  Europe and North America.

EXPO, the unbearable “burden of sustainability”

Fine, let us introduce the right to food in the constitution, as long as it does not have the same fate as the balanced state budget which ended up in the constitution too but only in writing…. Whereas with the approach of Expo, the torrent, the deluge of yapping and rhetoric is becoming almost unbearable. 
For those people though who – like us – are always rooting for their country, it is worth putting up with them as long as everything ends for the best. As they say in English: my country, right or wrong. In any case, it is undoubtedly hard. We have not yet understood if, in Milan, we will send our best foods and wines to strut down the runway or we will explain how to nurture our planet by using less chemicals, water, etc. In which case, we should also talk about GMOs without incurring religious wars and maybe – as Professor Romano Prodi has invited us to do – think about investing more in agriculture research. Because it is okay to want to feed and water the world but maybe we should focus more on how to produce more cereals, cultivate semi-arid lands, produce meat without destroying the soil and subsoil and grow fruit varieties that are more adaptable to the various climates and more resistant to pathogen attacks and less on culatello ham and Amarone wine. 

Publication in English on the Georgofili Academy downloadable on-line free of charge

Opening of the Georgofili Academy’s 262nd Year

United Nations Ideas for Change award to Stefano Mancuso

Teff nutritional quality and health benefits

Teff is not only a gluten free crop, it’s recognized as the “Next Super Grain” containing about 73% starch, 11% protein, 3% fiber and 3% ash. The interesting morphological feature of teff grain is that the whole grain is processed without removing the seed coat which is rich in several health promoting compounds such as phenolics, fibers and other bioactive compounds. Studies conducting by isolating the cell walls from teff grains showed that more than 50% of the phenolics, which are responsible for its antioxidant potential, are found bounded to the cell wall. In connection to this, dietary consumption of whole grains has been shown to contribute to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

The Georgofili School of Olive Oil Science and Technology

At the request of Academician Emeritus, Prof. Claudio Peri, the Academy of Georgofili has approved the Official Rules of The Georgofili School of Olive Oil Science and Technology. 

The first aim of the School is educational: to improve the professional standards of people and organizations involved in all aspects of the olive oil chain, from olive tree cultivation to oil use in restaurants and food establishments. The courses (30 to 60 hours, 50% of which consist in practical training and activities) are addressed to a very precise recipient target: the High Schools of Agriculture and Food Technology and Restaurant and Hotel Management. Basic concepts will be presented in all courses. Subjects specific to the interests of students in agriculture or technology or gastronomy will be developed and adapted according to the different professional interests and careers.
The second aim of the School is communication: to promote greater understanding of the general public regarding olive oil quality, science and technology. This aim is pursued with short (one or two days) events, differing in content and approach according to the type of audience (journalists or doctors, housewives or food connoisseurs, children or adults, scientists or traders, and so on).

The Teachings of Expo 2015

In a few weeks, our country will proudly inaugurate Expo Milano 2015. Its seat was chosen at a world level, with Milan intelligently sending off the proposal to dedicate the exhibition to the specific theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. A multitude of visitors is expected because all the countries involved are committed to confronting this essential problem that concerns all humankind.
In the international climate we are about to experience, this great event may lead us to contemplating and even regaining our optimism. Each one will be able to participate in a wide-ranging, sensible, and practical dialogue on the most advanced techniques available to increase production, optimize resource use, and preserve the renewable biosphere of areas under cultivation.

Food and sustainability. The Problem.

The World Total Biocapacity is 1.78 global hectare  (gha) per capita (Italy is 1). The Footprint Network  calculates that the current World Ecological Footprint of Consumption is 2.7 gha per capita: 1,5 times more resources than the Earth can provide. In case of business-as-usual scenario (BAU) in only 15 years the Humanity will need two Earths to survive. That is unsustainable.
In 2030 we will be 8 billion and F.A.O. projects that by 2050 we will be about 10 billion, 3 more than today, for which we need to produce additional food in a quantity that we ate in the last 6000 years. 149 million km2  is the total land area of the world, of which 30% is used for agriculture. UN estimate that we lose 23 ha per minute (12 Mha/year) because of degradation and desertification, an area where we could produce 20Mt cereals each year. Restoring just 12% of the world’s degraded agricultural land could feed 200 million people by 2030, while also strengthening climate resilience and reducing emissions. 

Recent discovery of chili peppers’ analgesic role

The health effects of hot chili peppers in our diet have been debated for some time and numerous biomedical studies have been carried out regarding this topic. Many results are favorable even if there are some contraindications that have often been questioned by the majority of experts.
Not only has the antibacterial role of hot chili peppers been ascertained but also its high vitamin-C content antioxidant power, and positive digestive effect—to mention just some of its properties.
In early 2015, the use of hot chili peppers as a painkiller was authoritatively confirmed.

The Birth of an Academy: Ubaldo Montelatici and the Georgofili

The idea of starting an academy to support agriculture in Tuscany probably came to the Lateran Canon Ubaldo Montelatici (whose real name was Antonio) during his stay at the Abbey of San Pietro in Casa Nuova in Laterina, in the Arezzo countryside. During the nine years he spent in there, he not only resumed his study of physics, but he also tried to apply this science to the “countryside economy”, as Saverio Manetti said in his speech commemorating Montelatici on 22 August 1770 at the Georgofili Academy, the institution that the Lateran father had founded, together with others, some twenty years before. Having returned to Florence in 1751 for reasons of health, Montelatici did not abandon his passion for agriculture. If he could not turn to it in a practical way, he devoted himself to its study on a theoretical level, especially in his effort to single out the centuries-long mistakes handed down in the agricultural practices that the Tuscan farmers persisted in perpetuating.

The scientist’s duty to reveal findings to the public

We believe that this piece published by the neurologist Rosario Sorrentino in Il Corriere della Sera on 14/02/2015 deserves to be passed on to our researchers. We consider it a useful concept that should be disseminated to those we encourage to work with our publication.  

Insects for food or feed: an opportunity?

The concerns about the environmental consequences of the intensive farming enforce the idea of the need of a greater food production in accordance with sustainability criteria. Therefore the news about the prospects of using insects as food has raised a great interest. Several newspapers and magazines have treated this topic starting from a 2013 publication by FAO: titled ”Edible insects: future prospects for food an feed security”.

Italian Pharmacopoeias. A general survey (Part II - XVII- XIX centuries)

It is not a surprise to find so many pharmacopoeias in the sixteenth century. In the years of the Holy Roman Emperor of Charles V and of his son Philip II, King of Spain, we see the birth, or the strengthening of several principalities in Italy, like the Duchy of Florence and each state’s correlated necessity of a stronger civil organization.

Parasite provides clues to evolution of plant diseases

Climate, alarm for the USA: “by the end of the century, there will be an epochal drought with severe consequences”

University of Goettingen: four professorships within the framework of a new "Center for Integrated Breeding"

Launch of WineandTravelItaly.com

Crunching genomes to boost animal health

Quantification of soil losses due to erosion, pollution and urbanization

Soil deterioration includes events both natural and man-made, the latter being usually called “soil degradation”. This process causes the decrease the actual or potential capacity of soil to give rise to products or services. Hereafter only events of anthropic origin are dealt with. Soil is a complex ecosystem formed by four phases: skeleton, gases, water and biophase.

Italian Pharmacopoeias. A general survey. Part I (XV-XVI Centuries)

Strictly speaking, it was not a pharmacopoeia, but rather a practical tool, a truly illuminating resource for physicians and apothecaries that, notwithstanding its limits, soon became a standard source in several cities for over a century.

Introducing Georgofili...

Since 1753, when the Academy of Georgofili was established by the great duke of Tuscany as the first Academy of Agriculture in Europe, up to these days, the Academy was a reference in the various historical periods for the policy of agriculture, land management and environment.

Noise and its impact on the perception of food and drink

Ireland first EU state allowed to export bovine products to the US market

THE FIRST ITALIAN EXHIBITION

The Agricultural Exhibitions were started during the Grand Duchy of Tuscany as a result of an 1838 proposal by the Georgofili, and were held periodically.
After Italy’s unification, Ricasoli’s provisional government, with a special law, decreed that an “exhibition of Italian products” be held in Florence. All this notwithstanding  the Expedition of the 1000 was in progress and Rome and Venice were not yet united.

“STAR 50” and “STAR 74”: new dwarfing grape rootstocks

As part of a breeding programme begun in 1990 to develop dwarfing stocks for Vitis vinifera, commercial rootstocks under self- or open-pollination led to 400 seedlings, subsequently tested via cuttings for rooting ability and graft compatibility with winegrape Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sangiovese and table grape Amburg Muscat. 

Soil Protection and expected climate change

Soil erosion is a major obstacle to the sustainability of all forms of intensive agriculture in hilly and mountain areas, exceeding 30 times the rate of sustainability (tolerable erosion). The trigger of the erosion is often favoured by inadequate plantation models and inappropriate land management techniques.

The only source of our daily bread

All living organisms need nourishment and this need must be met maintaining the natural balances of the renewable biosphere. When humans chose to become sedentary, agriculture was born and “culture” (a term deriving etymologically from it) developed: these are two of the parameters widely used to measure the level of civilization.

Pomegranates: a potential industrial crop with nutraceutical value

Pomegranates are mainly cultivated in areas with a Mediterranean climate, but tests carried out in Emilia Romagna have shown that the crop’s distributional area can also be extended to northern areas, using the right germ plasm. The interest in this species has been spurred by the fruit’s nutraceutical quality and the plant’s hardy nature that also adjusts to marginal areas.