Transfer of NASSTEC knowledge to European seed producers

ER 12C - Marcello De Vitis

Among the main aims of the NASSTEC project there is the improvement of the connection and the collaboration between academia and industry for the successful achievement of common goals regarding the large scale production of high quality native seeds, and my role plays a part in this challenge. My background, mainly academic, is on conservation of native plant species, with a specific interest in seed science and its application to species reintroduction and habitat restoration. In fact, during the last eight years, I have trained in and collaborated with Italian and UK germplasm banks (the Germplasm Bank of the Botanical Garden of Rome, the Tuscia Germplasm Bank, and the Millennium Seed Bank) to investigate the germination requirements of endangered species both in lab and in the field.

When working inside the protected walls of a scientific laboratory, where you are able to control most of the variables, sometimes it is hard to realize which and how many difficulties you could encounter when producing native seeds or when using them in the field of a restoration project.

The NASSTEC network is giving me the opportunity to look at the ecological restoration issues from different perspectives, since its strength, together with its peculiarity, lays in the fact that it represents, at a small scale, the European community of my interest: native seed industries, academic institutions and local bodies for nature conservation and land management.

And even more, my current experience of working in a native seed industry (Scotia Seeds) is making me learn which are the criticisms occurring in this challenging young sector, but also how satisfactory is to provide native seeds of high quality at each level of clientele, contributing to the maintenance of the local biodiversity and to the restoration of degraded landscapes.

My objective is to find all the possible relevant stakeholders dealing with native seeds in Europe and to link them to facilitate and promote the knowledge transfer, native seeds exchange and use, and sharing of opinions and ideas. The need of a professional role like mine, someone who acts as a bridge and facilitates the connection and collaboration, arises from a common lack of dialogue between different stakeholder groups, even if they have common goals and are working for similar objectives. This lack of collaboration is often translated in failures in research application, native seed production and deployment, and ecological restoration.

I am trying to understand, from the European community, the most critical issues related to native seed use (in research or in restoration), production and trade and I am doing it through a survey and through direct enquiries to the stakeholders.

Together with the ESRs, I am attending outreach and dissemination events to promote the use of native seeds and the ecological principles behind it, the need of quality standards and regulation for native seeds, and the importance of collaboration for achieving common goals.

One of the NASSTEC main pieces of legacy, which I am working on, is the European network for native seeds, that will unify all the relevant stakeholders and will allow them to easily find each other and exchange their knowledge.