Modul 6: Wissensformen, Nutzungsperspektiven und Landwirtschaftsideale bei der Entwicklung stresstoleranter Pflanzen

While scientists, using modern technologies such as genetic research, want to determine how plants could be adapted to changing climate, in a parallel development, social scientists focus on the organization and structure of the research process: what are the conditions by which new knowledge is generated? How can it be implemented in practice later on? In which way does the research process need to be structured, so that its objectives, methods and consequences will not be in conflict with the interests of other players like breeders, farmers or development consultants? I.e. which problems are likely to be addressed by this new field of research and what will be the reactions of various players to proffered problem solutions? And, finally, on what values and philosophies are intended applications in the development and deployment of stress-resistant plants based on? As such, the objectives of Module VI are as follows:

To observe research at an early stage and to identify emerging innovation regimes (i.e. the touch points and links between academic research, industry and governmental administrative units)

To examine the organization of laboratories, which are associated with FORPLANTA, into comprehensive innovation networks and regimes; it will be the aim to provide an evaluation of benefits from multiple perspectives as well as an analysis of the interplay between private and public breeding facilities on one hand; and the compatibility of emerging innovation strategies with agricultural structures on the other. In regard of the latter, we will distinguish between subsistence farming, agro-industrial operations and multi-functional agriculture as a new EU strategy for the preservation of rural areas.

To establish the relationship between expected benefits and prevalent philosophies on nature and agriculture as well as ideals in the preservation and development of rural areas.

Stage I: Types of knowledge and innovation regimes in respect of multi-factorial resistance to stress

On the empirical level, in-depth interviews and workshops with researchers of the FORPLANTA team will examine types of expertise and emerging innovation regimens as they evolve. We assume that these will be “research-based innovation communities”; i.e. triggers of innovation will be provided in equal measure by universities, industry and public research facilities – with the aim of having their favoured innovation strategies accepted by their respective counterparts in industry and research. Such innovation communities seem especially well-suited, if trust is established; their particular value lies in providing points of orientation in the early stages of innovation processes and they aid in establishing a consensus on problem definitions. This would seem to be the case in the new research area of stress-resistant plants.

Stage II: Socio-economic evaluation of benefits as regards small-scale agriculture in Europe

In order to include subsistence farming structures, it will be important to establish to what degree stress tolerance is bred into locally adapted crops, the properties of which would already be known – and culturally accepted – crops; to what degree local advisory structures are capable of achieving an adequate transfer of expertise and to establish confidence in new crop variants; which economic costs and risks will emerge; and whether under these conditions higher yields and increased crop security will actually be accomplished.

On the other hand, in multi-functional agriculture, as endorsed by the EU and already widely practiced in much of Bavaria, it will be essential to establish the compatibility of multi-factorial stress tolerance as well as its emergence through selective breeding or cis/trans-genetic methods with criteria of food quality, the preservation of traditional, agricultural environments as well as with cultural / symbolic associations of landscape, rural life and food with “nature”.

The questions after costs and benefits, which are relevant in this project stage, will be addressed with in-depth interviews with users (affected farmers, consultants, breeders, members of the industry, professional observers); furthermore, in a workshop with scientists and stakeholders associated with FORPLANTA scenarios on the development of stress-resistant plants will be developed: under which conditions can they be successfully implemented in which settings? How do innovation networks need to operate to early on address the needs of users? Which windows of opportunity exist in the development of stress-resistant plants: what is the earliest point in time for their introduction into the market? Which problems will be especially urgent and what are the most promising opportunities? Within the framework of these workshops, participants will identify key factors affecting these problem areas and devise future strategies.

Stage III: Socio-cultural ideals in agriculture and strategies for the preservation and development of rural areas

Interviews conducted in Stages I & II will serve to also inquire after philosophies on nature, which provide the setting for types of expertise, innovation regimens and agricultural applications. Furthermore, literature review will analyse socio-cultural ideals of agriculture and ideals in the preservation and development of rural areas as they are relevant within the respective agro-political publics, especially in the USA and Europe.

As similar objectives in Research Module V (Kummer/Dürnberger) focus on Bavaria, the effect will be complementary; i.e. enhanced precision and expanded scope. Module VI (Gill/Schneider) will be based on a typology of concepts of nature, developed by ourselves (Gill 2003), and will develop these further within the context outlined above.


Launching date