A team of innovators is presently exploring the idea of creating an international platform where agricultural researchers from across the world could collaborate and access a common resource for developing agricultural inputs everywhere – just as we have physicists from around the world easily accessing the use of CERN to promote the study of atoms and particles among others.
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In a study titled “The future of field trials in Europe: Establishing a network beyond boundaries” and published in the journal Trends in Plant Science, the team desires to have a network of research stations throughout Europe rather than a fixed laboratory as The Large Hadron Collider (CERN).
The innovators of the idea figure having a network of labs and agricultural scientists would enable researchers to access instant information regarding soil properties, temperatures, and atmospheric conditions that promote plant growths, while also allowing for the common sharing of expensive equipment such as the open-field installations for artificial carbon dioxide.
The study was financed by the European Research Council.
"Present field research facilities are aimed at making regional agriculture prosperous," noted co-author Hartmut Stützel of Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany. "To us, it is obvious that the 'challenges' of the 21st century--productivity increase, climate change, and environmental sustainability – will require more advanced research infrastructures covering a wider range of environments."
The agricultural lab project network is to be known as the European Consortium for Open Field Experimentation (ECOFE), and this name was given by Stützel and Nicolas Brüggemann of Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany and Dirk Inzé of VIB and Ghent University in Belgium among others.
Rather than working from individual autonomous labs, the ECOFE innovators would prefer that scientists give up control of their own labs to be able to access lab resources in various cities and countries in Europe via the ECOFE network.
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According to Stützel, "We must now try to make political decision makers aware that a speedy implementation of a network for open field experimentation is fundamental for future agricultural research" adding he understands many scientists may be new to the idea of the proposed infrastructure.