ReSEED – Rescuing seed’s heritage: engaging in a new framework of agriculture and innovation since the 18th century is a research project led by historian Dulce Freire and hosted by the University of Coimbra at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies (UIDB/00460/2020). The project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement n°760090).
The main goals are the following:
To examine the changes in agriculture related to cultivated seeds, environment and human action from 1750 to 1950;
To map the social and institutional networks that allowed the circulation of old and new seeds;
To understand the socio-economic and ecological impacts of the crops from the new worlds across Europe;
To assess which seed varieties have been successfully adapted and, equally relevant, the forgotten ones;
To build a “historical geography” of the local seeds grown in Portugal and Spain;
To identify practices and innovations in regional agriculture that may be applicable in the present to increase food production.
ReSEED focuses on the Iberian Peninsula, but relevant data can also be found in historical archives, botanic gardens, herbaria, and museums in several European countries (including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium) and in other continents.
Following the Historical Method procedures, the project is based on the collection and analysis of diverse qualitative data from a variety of sources. Quantitative data that could be important to examine some aspects of the research will be also collected and studied. The research has a macro and a micro level of analysis, as explained below:
› Macro level: extensive research
Reseed leads extensive research of the available information on the seeds cultivated across the Iberian Peninsula between 1750 and 1950 to characterize the changes in agriculture and agrobiodiversity. The geographical circulation, adaptation and impact of the seeds are examined.
ReSEED also aims to identify the “forgotten seeds”, that is, those that are no longer cultivated, assessing whether they could be reintroduced to contribute to more sustainable agriculture in the present and future.
Maps showing the changing “historical geography” of the seeds will be produced to facilitate the interpretation of the information gathered in this first phase. Databases regarding plant varieties will be built using the standard procedures of biology and botany.
› Micro level: intense analysis
After the extensive research, three case studies will be designed and carried out. An intensive analysis will provide detailed information related to local agrarian challenges promoted by the new seeds. The investigation focus on the changes in the landscape, the economic and social networks, and the agricultural practices associated with the successful cultivation. The sustainability and the potential for replication in other regions are considered.
TRANSDISCIPLINARY AND COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH
ReSEED promotes a transdisciplinary scientific workflow joining Social and Natural Sciences. The project combines theoretical perspectives, methodologies and methods developed in the field of history with others used in sociology, geography, biology and agronomy. The research team is been formed by investigators with these different backgrounds.
Furthermore, ReSEED provides an appropriate context for the so-called collaboratories, the laboratories without walls. Temporary collaboration with researchers from other projects and institutions will take place for the work on specific tasks in order to improve case studies analysis.
The project also aims to encourage permanently exchanges experiences between researchers and citizens. ReSEED team strongly believe that public engagement is essential in every step of the research project.
Relevant information and partial results of the investigation are disseminated throughout the process. In the last months, an overview of all documentation collected and instruments developed in the research will lead to the production of the final outputs. It is intended to answer the following questions: How can we ReSEED today? What kind of contributions can History give to the current challenges related to food security, agrobiodiversity and inequality?