ASTER – Agroecology-inspired Strategies and Tools to Enhance Resilience and ecosystem services in tomato Crop

The main aim of ASTER is the building up of a management model for small producers
of tomato through the application of the main agroecology principles, to improve the
resilience, the ecosystem services and the circularity of this crop in the Mediterranean
Basin. Main pillars of the model will be: (i) the protection and the enhancement of
functional biodiversity both above and belowground, to promote ecosystem services
(protection, nutrition, pollination); (ii) the sustainable control of main pests and
pathogens; (iii) the improvement of the production chain as inspired by the concept of
circularity. To achieve the main aim of the project four specific objectives (SO) and
relative ways to realize them have been identified:
SO1 Develop a two-way exchange of information by an interactive platform of academic groups
and stakeholders: a Stakeholder Interactive Platform (SIP) will be created to allow a continuous flow
of information between scientists and farmers. This platform follows a number of preliminary
meetings among ASTER partners that have highlighted the main issues of tomato system in the
different consortium countries, in particular those linked to the protection from key pests and
pathogens. SO2 Design field interventions to protect/enhance/exploitr the functional biodiversity
and plant defences for improving ecosystem services, resilience and sustainability: a combination
of tools to support plant nutrition, plant health, plant protection and pollination will be tested in the
field (open and protected crops) and in laboratory, including: a) diversification of plant species for incrop and border crop management; b) diversification of soil microbiota; c) biological and bio-derived
tools for plant protection and induction of resistance. SO3 Validate protocols for maximizing
ecosystems services and resilience by considering their ecologic, economic and social
sustainability: ASTER will: a) combine plant protection and nutrition tools based on the enhancement
of functional biodiversity and the induction of plant defences into innovative strategies (protocols) for
improving the sustainability of tomato system in the Mediterranean Basin; b) assess the level of
biodiversity ex ante and ex post aboveground by targeting the hyper-diverse group of Hymenoptera
(including main actors of ecosystem services, such as main pollinators and biocontrol agents) and
belowground by targeting symbionts and antagonist groups of soil microbiota (including mycorrhzae,
Trichoderma, PGPR); c) identify the costs, the benefits, the social and the environmental issues
associated with the suggested strategies of sustainable and circular production and will compare them
with those linked to current management of tomato in partners? countries. SO4 To ensure effective
coordination, dissemination and formation: Overall coordination will be pursued by scheduled
annual meetings and specific ones called on demand. Active dissemination is guaranteed by the
presence in the consortium of farmers and by the Stakeholder Consultation Platform (SCP) whose
access will be allowed to farmers? and farmers associations that already gave their support to the
project (see support letters). An open science approach will be adopted by choosing a specific
terminology in respect to each target audience. A project page will be created on the web and on
main social media with differential levels of access (public, confidential). Scientific publications
on high impact journals and congress/workshops presentations are expected. Formation
will rely on digital documents, video, digital courses and on-site field demonstration.

Deadline 09/06/2025


Institute IPSP – Institute for sustainable plant protection 

Contact Emilio Guerrieri