With a look ahead at the challenges and opportunities for agriculture in the Troodos Mountains, and the need to adapt to climate change, the 3PRO-TROODOS consortium organized its final public event on Wednesday, 15th of February 2023. The meeting was kindly hosted by the Galata Community Council.
At his welcoming speech, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Mr. Andreas Gregoriou, highlighted the role of research and smart technologies, and the necessity for farm education on digital skills. The President of Troodos Development Company, Mr. Xenakis Xenophontos noted the important outcomes of 3PRO-TROODOS and the need for research to continue supporting the transition of mountain farming with new, similar projects.
CyI Assoc. Prof. Adriana Bruggeman, and coordinator of the project presented the overview of 3PRO-TROODOS. The project aimed to improve agricultural production and food processing in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus, through social innovation, sustainable natural resource management and climate change adaptation. One of the main challenges that the Troodos Mountains is facing, other than the reduction of agricultural land use due to abandonment, is the impact of climate change on water resources. High-resolution climate and hydrologic models indicate that an 11% decrease in average annual rainfall and a 2oC increase in temperature could result in 7-13% increase in field-based irrigation water demand in Troodos in the near future. These climate changes could also result in a 30% decrease in surface water resources for 2030-2060, relative to the 1980-2010 reference period, as reported by The Cyprus Institute researcher, Ioannis Sofokleous.
The ethnobotanical survey on the use medicinal and aromatic plants in Troodos, undertaken by the Agricultural Research Institute, revealed a deep connection between local people and plants. The study led to the inscription of this distinct cultural element of Troodos to the 2022 UNESCO National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, as noted by research officer Constantina Stavridou. The cultivation of two local oregano species, was also tested in a field experiment, as explained by Dr. Andreas Savvides. Using smart irrigation technologies and deficit irrigation during spring, researchers managed to achieve an increased yield of essential oil without affecting the biomass produced, while saving water.
Smart technologies with soil moisture sensors for irrigation scheduling was one of the innovative outcomes of 3PRO-TROODOS. The Argus Agro System developed and tested in the project by Sigint Solutions in collaboration with The Cyprus Institute, as explained by Mr. George Michalis, consists of a solar-powered logger and a web-based data analysis and visualization platform that provides real-time information and irrigation advice to farmers. This technology can help farmers to safe 10-30% of irrigation water. Another innovation that was assessed in the project was the use of protective nets.
The Agricultural Researcher Institute officer, Dr. Sotiroula Ioannidou, highlighted that the field experiments in 3PRO-TROODOS have shown that protective nets can result in better performing orchards with higher productivity and improved fruit quality. Christos Agathokleous from Nikis Sweets LTD in Agros showed the potential for food processing innovations for Troodos and presented the audience with delicious dried apple slices, developed during the project.
Apart from technological innovations, 3PRO-TROODOS also looked at traditional and well-adapted nature-based solutions. Architect and environmental engineer Antonia Theodosiou presented the drystone maintenance workshops that engaged hundreds of people and multiple Troodos communities. An important outcome of the project is the illustrative manual on the construction and maintenance of drystone terraces, written by Antonia and her associate Anastasia Pitta of the Petra sti Petra Foundation.
Finally, the voluntary quality certification scheme that was developed for the Troodos-produced fruit and vegetables, was presented by Mr. Savvas Maliotis of A.M Filagrotiki Symvouleftiki LTD. The benefit to the region from the quality label, as analysed by CyI Associate Research Scientist in Water and Natural Resource Management Research and Economics, Dr. Elias Giannakis, could increase the local gross output by up to 0.6%, as fresh products can be traded at a better price. This implies almost 40 new jobs in the Troodos region.
Following the presentation of results, the audience had the chance to provide their views and comments. Farm union leaders, Christos Papapetrou and Lambros Achilleos, noted that the findings of 3PRO-TROODOS need to be taken into account by policy-makers to sustain farming in Troodos.
In his intervention, Mr. Marios Adamides of the Managing Authority for the Rural Development Program of Cyprus, noted that the adoption of the 2023-2027 agri-environmental measures and investment schemes require more collaboration between farmers, policy-makers and researchers. As a concluding remark, CyI Associate Research Scientist in Water and Natural Resource Management Research and Economics, Dr. Christos Zoumides mentioned that the project's success was made possible by the interdisciplinary cooperation among the project partners and farmers, community leaders and government officials. The research community and the 3PRO-TROODOS consortium is looking forward to continue this cooperation for a sustainable future of agricultural production and processing in the Troodos Mountains.
The 3PRO-TROODOS Project (INTEGRATED/0609/061) is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Cyprus through the Research and Innovation Foundation, and is coordinated by The Cyprus Institute.
The policy brief is available
online at the project website.