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Visit of the SURENEXUS coordinating team to the Regional Agronomic Research Center (INRA)

The coordination of the SURENEXUS project, the UNESCO Chair on Sustainability at the UPC, carried out a field visit to the Menzeh experimental station, belonging to the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Morocco, on November 1, 2022.

The National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) is part of a station where the Citrus Living Lab Digital Pilot Project will be implemented, as one of the four existing demo-sites in the SureNexus project. Hassan Benaouda, director of the Center, and Rachid Mrabet, director of research, showed the center to the Director of the UNESCO Chair on Sustainability at the UPC, Professor Jordi Morató, and to the researchers Guillermo Penagos and Olga Lucia Sánchez Santander.

During the day, we worked on the specific objectives of the PRIMA SureNexus project and the changes that can be generated in the region with the development of the pilot. A visit was also made to the laboratories that the center has:

  • Laboratory of the research unit on the improvement and conservation of plant genetic resources (URACRP), unit responsible for developing methodologies for the optimization of programs for creating new citrus varieties that meet market requirements. We also work on the conservation, evaluation, management and enrichment of citrus plant genetic resources. In addition, they have a molecular biology laboratory and analysis of water, soil and plants.

  • Plant Health Research Unit Laboratory (URPP): Identification and study of the different pests associated with citrus and other crops, identification and study of the different cryptogamic and post-harvest diseases associated with citrus and other crops.

The center has developed different applications for monitoring different parameters, including:

• Irrigation assisted by local climate

• Monitoring of Humidity and Temperature sensors (local and by drone)

• ECOD3. Soil moisture monitoring

• Presence of insects in trees. Study on biodiversity.

During the visit to the Pilot plant of the Digital Citrus Living Lab, the way to work on changes within the pilot and how to make them was discussed. The topics discussed were:

a) NEXUS metrics. The main objective of the SureNexus project is to develop a diverse but at the same time robust indicator system that can be used to measure the linkages, synergies and trade-offs of the quadruple NEXUS.

b) Water: The demonstration site has monitoring of water flow to the crops, including the water that reaches them, with an estimate of infiltration thanks to the salinity of the soil (they have salinity sensors from 5 to 55 cm) .

c) Energy: They have photovoltaic solar panels for energy generation in some parts of the demonstration site. The energy expenditure of the demonstration center will be evaluated thanks to the SURENEXUS project.

d) Ecosystem: the center developed an application for insect monitoring, whose tool can be used to analyze the different synergies and trade-offs between food - ecosystem, including ecosystem services related to insect biodiversity.

e) Food: The demonstration site is totally focused on the production of citrus varieties. They have all the data related to food production to quantify the fruit biomass generated.

By common agreement, it is established that the priority line to work jointly between the UPC and INRA will be the energy research line. In this sense, the idea is to convert the Kenitra demo-site into one of the pilots where the NEXUS Water-Energy will be monitored. To do this, sensors will be included to monitor energy consumption, using the IOT controller developed by AGENSO in the HYDROUSA project. The NEXUS Water-Energy analysis work will also be developed within the framework of the doctoral thesis developed by the PhD candidate, Olga Lucía Sanchez Santander.

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