February 11, 2020, by Lexi Earl

Collaborations with Embrapa to research Brazilian agricultural practices

The Future Food Beacon is developing a working partnership with Embrapa, Brazil. Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, is part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply and is concerned with generating knowledge and technology for Brazilian agriculture. In late 2018 and early 2019, supported by the UoN International Collaboration Fund, six Future Food researchers travelled to various Embrapa research centres across Brazil, to meet with researchers and discuss opportunities of collaboration and research, showcasing existing expertise from our Sutton Bonington campus in soils, crops, and livestock. We are excited that we are able to fund six projects that emerged from these visits through our Future Food Innovation Fund.

Sustainable intensification – led by Dr Stephen Ramsden

This project focuses on demonstrating the economic and environmental sustainability of production systems based on on-going farming practices in the Brazilian savannah. The research will develop measures of sustainable intensification (across economic, environmental and social dimensions) for a sample of farmers from the Goiás region in Central West Brazil. Dr Ramsden explained, “the idea behind sustainable intensification is to produce more, but with lower environmental costs and greater environmental benefits. Agro-forestry practices in Brazil have considerable scope to achieve this, delivering a range of benefits, including carbon capture and providing shade for livestock”.

Dr Stephen Ramsden and colleague amongst trees and pasture land in Brazil

Impacts of agrochemical use in the Brazilian Pantanal – led by Dr Lisa Yon

The Brazillian Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland and supports a unique, and highly diverse, ecological community. Evidence suggests that a combination of encroachment of intensive agriculture and widespread use of agrochemicals is impacting wildlife in the area.  It is therefore essential to understand the impact of contaminants and the risks they pose to this ecosystem to identify strategies for reducing their impact.  This project is a collaboration between the University of Nottingham, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul (Fabio Roque) and Embrapa, and aims to identify the presence and ecological impacts of agrochemicals in aquatic systems by sampling invertebrate, fish and reptile tissues, in combination with environmental samples. Workshops in Brazil and the UK will lead to knowledge exchange activities, particularly around methodologies for quantifying organic contaminants. Results will inform future planned work on assessing the impacts of agrochemicals in this internationally significant environment.

Dr Lisa Yon with colleagues at Embrapa Pantanal

Pantanal, Brazil

Improving combinatorial abiotic stress tolerance in upland rice –led by Dr Paulina Flis, Dr Rahul Bhosale and Dr Gabriel Castrillo

Rice is a key cereal crop, and rain-fed upland rice accounts for 47% of rice growing areas in Latin America. Upland rice has greater potential for water saving, reduced labour costs, and better adaption to climate change than its lowland counterpart. This project is based at Embrapa Rice and Beans, Goiânia and will characterise the performance of contrasting upland rice genotypes, determine the water status and nutritional profiles of upland rice grown under combined water and low phosphorous stresses, and will evaluate root architectural and anatomical traits of rice grown under these same conditions.

Assessment of Brazilian barley and wheat cultivars for pre-harvest sprouting tolerance – led by Dr Guillermina Mendiondo

Rainfall during the wheat and barley harvest occurs quite frequently in the southern region of Brazil, causing preharvest sprouting (PHS). The main end-uses of barley and wheat grains are malting and flour production, respectively, and both are negatively affected by PHS. Sprouted grains lose viability after desiccation and become useless for malting, an industrial process that relies on germination. Using elite cultivars of wheat and barley, developed in Brazil, this project is based at Embrapa Wheat, Passo Fundo, and will characterise the pattern of germination response in a set of malting barley and wheat cultivars in relation to PHS tolerance; make use of doubled haploid production technology, and use high throughput germination assay to evaluate germination response and grain size. This project is run in collaboration with Dr Foulkes, Rothamsted and the University of Buenos Aires.

Dr Guillermina Mendiondo and colleagues from Embrapa

Brazilian barley

Ionomics screening of a diversity panel of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) for the improvement of mineral nutrient content of the bean-based food products – led by Dr Paulina Flis

Beans are an excellent source of energy and nutritional value. This project is  based at Embrapa Rice and Beans, Goiânia, and will determine the mineral nutrient profiles of 340 bean accessions from the Embrapa Active Germplasm Bank, selecting the genotypes with the highest mineral nutrient content. The project will then explore the nutrient content of bean-based food products, focusing on bean flour, before investigating the flour for nutrient bioaccessibility after in-vitro digestion. This research will help select bean genotypes with higher nutritional value that can be further used in developing bean-based food products.

Feed efficiency and dairy cattle – led by Dr Phil Garnsworthy

This project is based at EMBRAPA Dairy Cattle (Gado de Leite) in Juiz de Fora and aims to improve the efficiency of dairy systems in Brazil through better matching nutrient supply, animal requirements and the genetic potential of growing and lactating animals. Brazil has the second highest dairy cow population in the world but is only the fifth highest milk producer and continues to import dairy products. The project will conduct a metagenomic evaluation of the ruminal microbiome of F1 Holstein x Gyr dairy cattle, correlating results with variables related to methane emission, feed efficiency indexes, and animal performance. Comparison of these results with work conducted at Nottingham will allow scientists to identify similarities and differences between temperate and tropical cattle, ultimately informing breeding programmes in the tropics.

Brazilian cattle

Prof David Salt, Director of the Future Food Beacon said,

We are very excited to be developing our relationship with Embrapa, across a wide range of projects and disciplines. Brazil is an amazing country full of opportunities and challenges relating to the provision of nutritious and healthy food. Embrapa has revolutionised agricultural production in the country over its 47-year history and working closely with Dr Pedro Luiz Oliveira de Almeida Machado, the outgoing Embrapa Secretary International Strategic Relations, has allowed Future Food to develop new partnerships in Brazil which we hope to build upon in the future. In support of this working relationship we have also recently signed an MOU with Embrapa”.

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