TransPlant

Enhancing the transfer of plant research results into practice and capacity building in plant sciences

MKV NRW 2024-2026

TransPlant aims at creating a collaborative effort among three partner universities, namely Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf, University of Cologne, and Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, focusing on enhancing the transfer of plant research results into practice and capacity building in plant sciences.

The transfer activities should initially focus on two main research areas: nutrient use in crops and cropping systems, and development and use of biological agents for more ecologically friendly plant production.

The project aims at contributing to develop sustainable crops and cropping systems for different environments, by integrating expertise in genetics, environmental sciences, and sustainable agriculture. Specifically, it targets the structural and functional characterization of plant microbiomes, emphasizing the development of beneficial microorganisms for plant protection and nutrition.

The project’s primary goal is to facilitate technology transfer, emphasizing early-stage socio-economic evaluation of innovative solutions. It seeks to strengthen networks between academia, industry, and SMEs through coordinated scouting activities and regular events. Transfer competencies among researchers will be enhanced through joint seminars and workshops, focusing on cooperation with existing entities and fostering startup initiatives of the collaborating Universities.

The project also aims to foster student and faculty interactions across universities through joint projects, supervised theses, and shared coursework. Plans include offering joint courses and facilitating administrative processes to streamline collaboration. Overall, the project aims to leverage diverse expertise and resources to address agricultural challenges and foster innovation in academia and industry connecting fundamental research with application in agriculture.

Project partners: Heinrich-Heine-Hochschule Düsseldorf, University of Cologne (both strongly involved in CEPLAS)

Project lead HSRW:
Prof. Dr. Jens Gebauer, Prof. Dr. Florian Wichern

Introduction

Humanity faces interconnected challenges such as food insecurity, poverty, climate change, and biodiversity loss, exacerbated by unsustainable practices and resource depletion.

Soil degradation, driven by unsustainable agriculture, threatens food production. Simultaneously, deforestation for agriculture reduces global forest cover, worsening climate change, poverty, and food insecurity. Currently, 768 million people globally suffer from undernourishment, with Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Africa particularly affected, further aggravated by crises like the pandemic and conflicts.

Innovative food sources are urgently needed. Research highlights the potential of forests, trees, and edible insects to diversify food production, improve environmental and socioeconomic outcomes, and enhance human nutrition.

Edible insects, including those living in forests, offer a sustainable protein source. They are rich in nutrients, environmentally friendly, and efficient in land and resource use compared to traditional livestock. Despite cultural acceptance in some regions, widespread recognition of insects as a viable food source is relatively recent.

Urban demand for edible insects often exceeds supply, offering commercial potential and opportunities for youth entrepreneurship. However, insect farming, especially for Black Soldier Flies, remains limited, requiring improvement, waste management, and feed assessment. Digital tools like dynamic vision sensors and radar surveillance aid insect monitoring, enhancing understanding of insect behavior in farming and optimizing productivity.

Edible insects can complement smallholder farming, diversify income, improve crop health, and recycle waste. Expanding insect farming necessitates research, technological enhancements, and sustainable waste utilization strategies, offering solutions to pressing global challenges while promoting sustainability and economic opportunities.

Aims & Objectives

Against this background, the project aims at initiating a long-term multi-disciplinary research collaboration between scientists from Germany and Uganda on selected entomological, socio-economic, and technological aspects of edible insect collection, farming, waste recycling, and use to contribute to a  circular food economy in Uganda. During a period of up to 12 months, the project will use an exploratory workshop, project-related trips, and a project-related guest visit at cooperation partners to attain its objectives.

„Indoor-Farming in Deutschland statt Lebensmittelimporte aus dem Ausland? Analyse zu Agrarimporten und ihrem ökologischen Fußabdruck“

In Zusammenarbeit mit dem Startup Stallgrün und fachlicher Begleitung durch Agrobusiness Niederrhein e.V. soll untersucht werden in welchen Mengen Agrarprodukte aus dem Ausland import werden, die sich auch in Indoor-Farmen in ehemaligen Schweineställen anbauen ließen. Eine weitere Frage, die beantwortet werden soll ist, wie Lebensmittel aus regionalen Indoor-Farmen einen ökologischen Mehrwert gegenüber ihrem Equivalent aus Importware aufweisen.

Für diese Fragestellungen werden Studierende gesucht, die im Rahmen einer Bachelor-, Master- oder Studienarbeit Forschung hinsichtlich der genannten Themen betreiben möchten. Die Arbeiten werden im Rahmen des Projektes TransRegINT der Hochschule Rhein Waal in Zusammenarbeit mit Agrobusiness Niederrhein e.V. und dem Agropole Innovates Projekt ausgeschrieben.

Die Bearbeitungszeit der Thematik beträgt ca. 3-6 Monate, für eine Bewerbung müssen Lebenslauf, Motivationsschreiben, Zeugnisse und ggf. Sprachnachweise an regina.bach@hochschule-rhein-waal.de geschickt werden.

Für mehr Infos bezüglich Hintergrund, Aufgaben und Vorraussetzungen könnt ihr in dem nachfolgenden Dokument Genaueres nachlesen:

Gathering wild fruits and nuts from forests is widespread around the world. However, Central Asia’s forests are overexploited in the process. The SUFACHAIN project, which is part of the BMBF’s CLIENT II program, aims to contribute to the sustainable management of commercial forests.

Agroforestry in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

Overuse of forests, high water consumption and also soil overuse (degradation) are major challenges for natural forests in large parts of Central Asia. However, sustainable action does not only consist of reforestation, but can also be implemented through targeted agroforestry. This combines agricultural and forestry systems. Ideally, such mixed systems can unleash great synergies that not only have a positive impact on carbon sequestration, but additionally positively influence water and nutrient budgets, biodiversity, crop yields and humus formation.

Agroforestry systems that integrate nut and fruit trees into agricultural production offer great potential in Central Asia for the sustainable and efficient production of high-quality food. At the same time, this can reduce overexploitation and alleviate drought caused by climate change.

Researchers from project SUFACHAIN help to use walnut forests more sustainably and efficiently

The fruits of the true walnut (Juglans regia L.) are among the highest value agroforestry products in Central Asia. Their multiple utilization possibilities will be analyzed by the SUFACHAIN project and integrated into local land and forest use. To this end, products and technologies will be developed that contribute to sustainable resource use and increased local value creation. For example, supposed waste products, such as walnut shells or apricot kernels, can be reused in the international cosmetics industry to replace microplastic beads in skin cosmetics, such as scrubs.

To develop efficient value chains and appropriate marketing for agroforestry systems, the researchers in SUAFCHAIN want to introduce product certifications and further ecological standards, as well as develop attractive market niches for agroforestry products.

With a transdisciplinary approach and in close cooperation with Central Asian stakeholders, the project, led by Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, is investigating both technological issues for better utilization, for example of waste products, as well as ecological and socio-economic issues. In this way, the project contributes to sustainable management of walnut forests and other natural resources in Central Asia, while improving income and business opportunities for the local population and the region’s resilience to drought as a result of climate change. Together with the collaborative partners and stakeholders from Central Asia, the project was officially launched with a kick-off conference in Bishkek in mid-March 2023.

The BMBF is funding the SUFACHAIN project in the CLIENT II funding measure from 2022 to 2025 with around 1.4 million euros.

Kick Off Workshop SUFACHAIN Project

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, March 13, 2023

 

On 13 and 14 March, 22 scientists, eight entrepreneurs and representatives from five civil society organisations from Germany and Central Asia gathered at the Plaza Hotel in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to kick off the SUFACHAIN project. The workshop was opened with welcome addresses presented by Dr. Hendrik Meurs on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Vice-rector for academic work of I. Razzakov Kyrgyz State Technical University, Associate Prof. Rimma Elemanova, and Prof. Dr. Dietrich Darr of Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. During the event, participants engaged in structured discussions highlighting the overall research agenda and existing constraints. Additionally, respective working groups comprising of scientific experts (including Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, TU Dresden, I. Razzakov Kyrgyz State Technical University, National Academy of Science of KR, Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University, Mountain Society Research Institute, German-Kazakh University and Uzbek National University), industry partners (Organic Services GmbH, KAFLU, DANECO, Altyn Bak LLC, Global Agro Trade and Logistics Centre LLC, Advantex and Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism) and international organizations (Aga Khan Foundation, GIZ, UNDP, KIVA / KRASS and World Agroforestry Center) discussed opportunities for mutual contribution to collectively achieve sustainable development in Central Asia through the adoption of innovative agroforestry systems.

 

After completion of the workshop, with support of local partners, the research group from Germany and Central Asia visited the agroforestry sites and corresponding value chain s in the Batken region. Participants gained firsthand insights into the operations and processes in the local farmer cooperatives, peri-urban markets, and food processing enterprises. The visit allowed the group to identify experimental sites, collect fruit and nut samples for further research to foster sustainable land management within the scope of agroforestry practices in Central Asia. “The SUFACHAIN project is very beneficial and necessary not only for Kyrgyzstan, but the whole Central Asia to develop effective agroforestry systems. I am sure that the project will provide an excellent scientific base for the practical realization of various agroforestry methods and use the natural resources more efficiently,“ said Aitkul Burkhanov, the General Director of the Kyrgyz Association of Forest and Land Users.

 

The SUFACHAIN project is a collaborative effort between universities, research institutions, NGOs, and agribusiness SMEs in Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project intends to promote sustainable land management and agroforestry value chains in Central Asia by developing knowledge and technologies aimed at increasing the profitability, resource efficiency, and product quality in the cultivation, processing and marketing of apricots, walnuts and other fruits.

 

 

Старт проекта SUFACHAIN для продвижения устойчивого управления земельными ресурсами в Центральной Азии

 

Бишкек, Кыргызстан, 13 марта 2023 г.

 

13 и 14 марта 2023 года, в отеле Plaza города Бишкек, сообщество из 22 ученых, 8 предпринимателей и различных представителей из 5 организаций гражданского сектора Германии и Средней Азии провели стартовый семинар проекта SUFACHAIN. Мероприятие открыли приветственными обращениями доктора Хендрик Мейерса от имени Федерального министерства образования и исследований Германии, проректора по академической работе ПГТУ им. И. Раззакова Риммы Элемановой и профессора доктора Дитрих Дарра (Рейн-Ваальский университет прикладных Наук, Германия).

 

В ходе стартового семинара участники структурированно обсудили общую программу исследований и возможные препятствия в достижении целей проекта. Так же, соответствующие рабочие группы, состоящие из научных экспертов (Рейн-Ваальский Университет Прикладных Наук, Технический Университет Дрездена, КГТУ им. И. Раззакова, Национальная Академия Наук КР, Кыргызско-Турецкий Университет «Манас», Институт Исследований Горных Сообществ, Казахско-Немецкий Университет, Узбекский Национальный Университет), отраслевых партнеров (Organic Services GmbH, Ассоциации Лесопользователей и Землепользователей Кыргызстана, ДАНЭКО, ОсОО Алтын Бак, Global ОсОО Agro Trade and Logistics Centre, Адвантекс, Кыргызская Ассоциация Туризма Основанного на Сообществах) и международных организаций (Фонд Ага Хана, GIZ, UNDP, KIVA / KRASS, Всемирный Центр по Агролесоводству) обсудили возможности взаимного вклада в коллективное достижение устойчивого развития в Центральной Азии путем внедрения устойчивых систем агролесоводства.

 

После завершения стартового семинара, при поддержке местных партнеров исследовательская группа из Германии и Центральной Азии посетила производственно-сбытовые цепочки агролесоводства в Баткенской области.  Участники из первых рук ознакомились с рабочими процессами в местных фермерских кооперативах, пригородных рынках и предприятиях пищевой переработки. Визит позволил группе определить экспериментальные участки, собрать фрукты и орехи для дальнейших исследований в целях содействия устойчивому управлению земельными ресурсами в рамках агролесоводства в Центральной Азии. «Проект SUFACHAIN очень полезен и необходим не только для Кыргызстана, но и всех стран Средней Азии, в плане развития эффективных систем агролесоводства. Я уверен, что проект окажет очень хорошую научную поддержку в практической реализации методов агролесоводства для более эффективного использования ограниченных природных ресурсов», – сообщил Айткул Бурханов, Генеральный директор Ассоциации Лесопользователей и Землепользователей Кыргызстана.

 

Проект SUFACHAIN — это совместная работа университетов, научно-исследовательских институтов, НПО и малых и средних предприятий агробизнеса в Германии, Кыргызстане, Таджикистане и Узбекистане, спонсируемая Федеральным министерством образования и исследований Германии. Основной целью проекта является содействие устойчивому управлению земельными ресурсами и цепочкам добавленной стоимости в агролесомелиорации в Центральной Азии.

The unknown soil microbial stoichiometry and its potential use

Funded by German Research Foundation (DFG) • 2023-2026

The soil microbial community provides important ecosystem services and is intergral part of soil health and fertility. A microbial cell consists of biomolecules comprising the structural elements C, H, O, N, P, and S. Physiological and structural stability is granted by the ionic elements K, Na, Cl, Ca, and Mg. For fulfilling specific functions proteins like enzymes contain the proteinogenic metals Mg, Fe, Zn, Cu, Mn, and Mo. Depending on the kind of organism or the environmental conditions further elements can play specific roles like Se, Co, Ni, W, B, or Si. From the level of single cells to the whole community, sets of elements can be recognised, which are needed for growth and maintenance of the soil microbial biomass and the single processes of the ecosystem services (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.micres.2021.126832). However, the ratio of soil microbial biomass C to any other element, i.e. the stoichiometry, needed for running these processes is not known.

 

Determination of soil microbial biomass elements was restricted to C, N, P, S, and K and for the C:N:P ratio a relative homeostatic value has been found. A protocol developed in the Soil ionoMICS project (see below) enables now determining further microbial biomass elements (https://doi.org/10.1111/ejss.13356). Using soils, which by long-term fertilisation treatments differ in their nutritional status, the project aims at finding which elements behave homeostatic or plastic. We want to link the bioavailable elements and the soil microbial biomass elements to functions like enzyme activities and to the abundance of functional genes coding for metalloproteins. The grand goal is to find out whether the knowledge of soil bioavailable elements and microbial biomass stoichiometry can be used to enhance microbial growth and ecosystem services by addition of elements in limitation.

SDG-Partnerships funded by DAAD

Programme objective

The programme focuses on planning, developing and realising a higher education partnership between higher education institutions in Germany and in developing countries and the resulting sustainable structural improvements at the partner institutions.
The long-term programme objectives are to contribute to sustainable development according to the 2030 Agenda, to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to establishing high-performing cosmopolitan higher education institutions in the partner countries.

North-SouthSouth partnership

Africa is facing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss driven by rapid population growth, persisting poverty, food insecurity, unsustainable natural resource use, and climate change. University graduates will play a central role in solving these societal, political, technological, and ecological challenges, e.g. through developing appropriate sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity ‘conservation through use’ strategies. Graduates will require flexibility and adaptability, strong cooperation skills, and the ability to deal with dynamic and complex problems. Academic education must therefore enhance reflective and discourse-oriented teaching and focus on integrating research and academic teaching. Guided self-study forms of learning are required to enhance the independence of the students and develop a problem-solving mindset.

Against this background, the proposed project aims at enhancing SDG-related research and teaching through a strong North-SouthSouth partnership between Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences (HSRW), Makerere University, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (MAK), and the Central University of Technology (CUT), to prepare graduate students for the societal challenges ahead and the requirements of the job market. This includes updated curricula and didactic methods, pedagogical practices that encourage students to develop conceptual learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, as well as improving digitalization and building capacity among lecturers to teach digitally.

Cooperation with Uganda and South Africa

Uganda is one of the most biodiverse countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Seventy-five percent of Uganda’s population lives in rural areas and depend on small-scale agriculture and the use of natural resources. Uganda has also one of the youngest populations globally with 46% aged below 15 years that will result in continued rapid population growth in the coming decades. During the past Uganda has lost substantial parts of its natural habitat to agricultural expansion, improved road infrastructure and economic development. Hence, Uganda faces enormous challenges to achieve the SDGs. Rural areas in South Africa face similar challenges in many regards. The continued destruction of ecosystems and of the services they provide risks to increase poverty (SDG1), food insecurity (SDG2), human health risks (SDG3), conflicts (SDG16), but will also jeopardise achieving climate goals (SDG13) and threaten clean water availability (SDG6) in both countries. Protection, restoration and promotion of sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and natural resources (SDG15) should therefore be at the core interest for achieving sustainable development in Uganda and South Africa.

The aim of the project is to contribute to more sustainable land management in Central Asia by developing new approaches, methods, products and scientific knowledge that promote agroforestry production systems and their value chains.

Research and development activities are focussed on the analysis and development of agroforestry plantations and orchards; the development of improved methods in dried fruit processing as well as prototypes for innovative food products; the increase in profitability and resource efficiency in nut and fruit processing through the use of waste materials for high-quality applications in the cosmetics industry; to improve marketing channels through supply chain transparency, strengthening of producer organizations and certification; an increased local value added through valorisation of the ecosystem services provided by agroforestry systems (e.g. through carbon certificates); as well as the development of attractive market niches for agroforestry products (e.g. in culinary tourism).

To achieve the project goals, the participating German universities and SMEs work closely with research institutions, private sector stakeholders, international development organizations and actors of the civil society from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The project results are suitable for improving the profitability of agroforestry systems and thus creating additional incentives for their dissemination.

The project is thus helping to reduce soil erosion, soil degradation and loss of forest area in Central Asia, while at the same time creating business and local value creation opportunities for companies and improving the income situation for local populations.