One of the most important activities during the General Assembly was the Round Table entitled “Perspectives of multifunctional microbial-based products in agriculture”, moderated by Prof. Eligio Malusà. About 60 relevant external stakeholders and advisors joined the event, including Dr. Jeremy Pinte as a representative of the European DG-GROW and DG-SANTE and Dr. Manuele Ricci as a representative of the European European Biostimulants Industry Council (EBIC) as invited speakers.

The main topic started from the assumption that the current EU legislative framework on fertilizers, the “Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR)” (EU Reg. n.1009/2019) is not exhaustive in terms of allowed groups of microorganisms, having only four included in the regulation list (Azotobacter spp., Mycorrhizal fungi, Rhizobium spp. and Azospirillum spp.). The main topics of the debate focused on:

  • How can new organisms be added to the FPR list?
  • The “multiple-use” concept for microbial biostimulants

From 1st to 3rd September 2021, the General Assembly of Excalibur Project took place in hybrid mode. It was organized by UGR with the support of MODIS, in Munich (Germany), at the Schloss Hohenkammer castle in Munich, Germany. While many partners were physically present in Munich, some had still to join online.

The agenda of the event included presentations on all WP activities, discussions on the activities done and planned and what is next. It was the first official gathering of the project partners since 2019 and everyone was pretty excited.

A webinar was organized by CREA focusing on the new Regulation (EU) 2019/1009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 laying down rules on the making available on the market of EU fertilising product. The topic of the webinar is “Technical means in organic farming: emerging opportunities and constraints in the light of the new regulatory framework” (In Italian: “I mezzi tecnici in agricoltura biologica: opportunità e criticità emergenti alla luce dei recenti aggiornamenti normativi”).

The meeting was organized within CREA’s activities in that field, but also with RIRAB (Italian Network of Research in Organic Production). About 50 people participated in the meeting, while a representative of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture  (Mipaaf), researchers and many farmers (more than 30) were involved in the final discussion.

The webinar included some presentations focused on the recent critical issues encountered by many organic producers regarding the accidental contamination detected in some external inputs, including biostimulants (microbial and non-microbial ones).

TU-GRAZ participated at the 50th Ecological Society of Germany (GfÖ) Virtual Annual Meeting 2021. The event took place from 30 August to 1 September. Due to the pandemic, it opted for a fully virtual format of the conference. A presentation on “Soil microbial diversity is crucial for plant health throughout plants lifecycle” was delivered by the TU-GRAZ team

More about the event and the programme can be fined here: https://www.gfoe-conference.de/index.php?cat=show_start

The RHS Flower Show Tatton Park is held every summer at Tatton Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom by the Royal Horticultural Society. It has been running since 1999 and attracts 80,000 visitors on the 28 acres show grounds over 5 days. The show houses the RHS National Flower Bed Competition, Young Designer of the Year Award and a wide range of inspirational show gardens, marquees displaying prize plants and flora exhibits. Another key feature of the show is the Greenfields zones that is dedicated to activities for families and children.

This year, the National History Museum and NIAB-EMR represented the Excalibur with a stand called “The Soil is Alive” in July 2021. The Excalibur team had fungi and soil invertebrates on display and visitors were able to have a closer look at these organisms under microscope.

DNA extractions from fresh strawberries were carried out using a simple protocol based on salt and dish washing liquid. Visitors were also able to see demonstrations of DNA sequencing using Lego DNA strands and Blocksford Brickopore sequencer. The Brickopore mimics a Nanopore sequencer and allows to do a real-time NCBI database of the sequences. The Excalibur had an amazing week talking with hundreds of visitors and share our enthusiasm for soil biodiversity and horticulture.

The “Landesgartenschau Überlingen 2021” or the State Horticultural Show in Überlingen is a “summer-long garden party” that takes place between May and October at the shore of Lake Constance in Germany.

Excalibur was presented by the partner Kompetenzzentrum Obstbau Bodensee (KOB) who enjoyed the ability to finally meet people in person and tell them more about Excalibur.

The scientific conference 17th International Symposium on Insect-Plant relationships (SIP17) took place on 26 July in Leiden, The Netherlands and NIOO-KNAW participated with the topic “How root fungi interfere with plant herbivore responses. Arjen Biere delivered a presentation on “How root fungi interfere with plant herbivore responses”

Part of European Researchers’ Night, NHM’s annual festival of science is free and offered its visitors the chance to talk to world-known scientists.

The visitors were able to meet over 150 scientists and explore networks in nature, sustainable solutions to today’s environmental issues, how digital technologies give us access to the latest research and how delving into the past is key to protecting the future of our planet. The event was attended by more than 5 000 people and included activities like Pop-up science stations, Hall of Fame Lab, Nature Live Talks, and many more.

Nicolai Vitt Meyling from University of Copenhagen presented Excalibur Project at the Stakeholder Synergy Meeting organised and hosted by a sister-H2020 project FindingPheno. He delivered a general presentation “EXCALIBUR: Exploiting the multifunctional potential of belowground biodiversity in horticultural farming”. The meeting was a great opportunity to meet other EU projects, academics and companies working in the intersection of big data and microbiome research.

On December 2, 2021 Prof. Eligio Malusa participated in a webinar “The soil is alive: microbiome, precision agriculture, climate change, holobiont, innovations”, organised by TerraEVita – a major Italian publisher in the agricultural sector.

The title of the presentation was “Integrated microbiological strategies for Agriculture 4.0: pre-, pro, post-biotic” (in Italian “Strategie microbiologiche integrate per l’agricoltura 4.0: pre-, pro-, post-biotici”). Agriculture 4.0 is a term that indicates the next major trends in the agri-food sector. It includes a greater focus on a more precise agriculture, the use of technology, Internet and databases as means to improve the agricultural efficiency in a climate change scenario and increase in the world population. In this context, the use of microorganisms can help to improve the productivity of crops in a sustainable way and also become a tool for mitigating growing environmental and climate concerns.

The recording of the webinar (in Italian) can be found here.

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