To increase organic production is a part of the European Green Deal, which indicated in the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies the objective of 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming by 2030. Other than this, one of the latest communications of the European Commission (EU COM 380, 20.5.2020) states that by 2030, it is necessary to invert the trend of genetic erosion in agriculture by, for example, the use of traditional breeds and cultivars. The safeguarding of agrobiodiversity is an extension of the concept of biodiversity conservation that refers specifically to the varieties/races of plant, animal, and microbe species of agricultural interest, as well as crop wild relatives. The loss of agrobiodiversity represents a serious problem that has prompted governments at global and local levels to take immediate action. This resulted in the drawing up of international guidelines and strategies such as, for the the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that about 75% of global agrobiodiversity has been lost over the last century and that three quarters of food worldwide is produced by only 12 plant species and five animal species.

The management of specialized and sometimes monoculture cropping systems generally require intensive use of energy, water, fertilizers and external inputs for pest and disease control. The same is for high-production and intensive breeding systems. Plant based functional biodiversity, and native hardy breeds, rarely utilised, could help farming systems to reduce the dependency of external inputs, while increasing economic sustainability and preserving important genetic resources. Being locally adapted, in fact, traditional animal breeds and plant varieties, constitute unique genetic resources for genetic improvement programs, a source of food diversity available to humans and other living beings. They provide important genetic resources fitted to their environment and they can represent a valuable resource for innovative lower-input agricultural systems and innovative solutions for climatic and social changes.

Very often, as in the case of Italy, public open sources of data, such as inventories produced by universities and research centers, or foundations for the conservation of agrobiodiversity such as Slow Food, can provide a considerable amount of information on agrobiodiversity, as showed in a recent research work of UNIMONT (Giupponi L, Pedrali D, Leoni V, Rodari A, Giorgi A (2020). Further, the study showed that the areas richest in number of landraces and in different crops cultivated as landraces were located inland in hilly and mountainous areas or in general in marginal territories. Marginal areas (Mountainous, sub-mountainous, hilly areas and little islands) have almost always land system that preserves, and in some case enhances, the biological diversity threatened by changes in land use and by diffuse abandonment.




The landraces could represent quality food chains for marginal territories, contributing to trade and job creation and the improvement of the general competitiveness of the agricultural sector of marginal territories

The landraces could represent quality food chains for marginal territories, contributing to trade and job creation and the improvement of the general competitiveness of the agricultural sector of marginal territories. Although historically cultivated, they could be rediscovered and, contradiction in terms, represent new and innovative solutions to environmentally friendly agriculture and supporting human health, as often they are also functional food to improve human nutrition and contribute to a varied diet for human health. Often horticultural landraces belong to the fabaceae family and the number of consumers dedicated to a healthier lifestyle with less consumption of meat, more plant-based protein food and looking for nutritious food, is increasing.


It is therefore of paramount importance to reverse this trend to preserve this heritage through the characterization (agronomic, genetic, nutritional, and historical) of landraces and the promotion of sustainable, innovative, and quality agri-food chains other than the conservation in seed banks. The information exchange at a European level is of paramount importance to list, describe, monitor, protect, and promote.


The information collected should not be an end in itself, and must be made openly available for example through web-enabled databases and web-portals (e.g. the Italian horticultural Landraces) and through the collection of best practices to implement novel marketing niches based on landraces and traditional breeds and the underpinning of local agrobiodiversity heritage. The actions of the working group aim to respond to significant societal challenges in Europe’s and global agriculture and food systems through the rediscover of traditional animal breeds and plant varieties.