SMARTER EU Project

ICAR is among the 27 Partners of the SMARTER EU Project collaborating to develop and deploy innovative strategies to improve Resilience and Efficiency (R&E) related traits in sheep and goats. The project also involves the support by 30 national and international stakeholders, providing a multi-actor approach between academic and key European stakeholders, including 13 non-academic partners and various other stakeholders gathered in the stakeholder platform.

SMARTER will develop and deploy innovative strategies to improve Resilience and Efficiency (R&E) related traits in sheep and goats.

At the fundamental level, the project will:

  • Identify and characterise phenotypic novel measures using low cost automated devices, new recording schemes, and integrative modelling for resistance and efficiency related traits in controlled and extensive environments. These traits will include feed efficiency, body reserve mobilisation, health and welfare, lamb vigour/survival, and the ability to recover from environmental and disease challenges;
  • Quantify the genetic variability of the resistance and efficiency related traits in common breeds and in hardy and under-utilised breeds well-adapted to their local harsh environments and identify genomic DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid variants) and non-genomic variability (epigenetic, metagenomics and transcriptomic;
  • Quantify the extent and relevance of genotype-by-environment interactions (G*E) for resistance and efficiency related traits between conventional and organic farms and between various feeding and climatic;
  • Enhance the benefit of genomic selection in small ruminants by tailoring and improving models that include multi-population/breed and G*E.

 

At the technological and applied level, the project will:

  • Propose and validate new, low-cost predictors of resistance and efficiency related traits in ruminants for widespread phenotyping at the population level, as well as deliver genetic and genomic breeding values for novel R&E related traits;
  • Develop decision support tools to be used by scientists, farmers and animal breeders for managing trade-offs and optimising useful trais of animals under a variety of challenging conditions;
  • Develop tools to boost networking among breeders and breeder associations of hardy and under-utilised breeds in order to enhance and market the value of their unique characteristics;
  • Develop new methods to increase genomic selection efficacy in small ruminants by including the use of pure and crossbreed populations and major gene information;
  • Deliver recommendations for strategic use of new genomic tools including a comparison of efficacy and cost of using genomic tools with different SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) densities;
  • Perform the first across-country genomic evaluations in small ruminants by pooling phenotypic and genomic data and creating new shared reference populations in sheep (UK, France, Spain, Ireland, Uruguay) and goats (France, Italy, Canada);
  • Develop protocols and assess benefits of across-country evaluation;
  • Provide international guidelines for harmonious measurement, reporting and analysis of useful traits on farm;
  • Propose new and optimised breeding strategies that utilise useful traits and trade-offs and balance economic, social and environmental challenges;
  • Foster interactions between partners and external scientific community members and stakeholders during multi-actor round tables and training activities;
  • Enhance capacity building of small ruminants stakeholders and scientists.

 

SMARTER will find these strategies by:

  1. generating and validating novel R&E related traits at a phenotypic and genetic level
  2. improving anddeveloping new genome-based solutions and tools relevant for the data structure and size of small ruminant populations,
  3. establishing new breeding and selection strategies for various breeds and environments that consider R&E traits . SMARTER with help from stakeholders chose several key R&E traits including feed efficiency, health (resistance to disease, survival) and welfare.

Experimental populations will be used to identify and dissect new predictors of these R&E traits and the trade-off between animal ability to overcome external challenges. SMARTER will estimate the underlying genetic and genomic variability governing these R&E related traits. This variability will be related to performance in different environments including genotype-by-environment interactions (conventional, agro-ecological and organic systems) in commercial populations. The outcome will be accurate genomic predictions for R&E traits in different environments across different breeds and populations.

SMARTER will also create a new cooperative European and international initiative that will use genomic selection across countries. This initiative will make selection for R&E traits faster and more efficient. SMARTER will also characterize the phenotype and genome of traditional and underutilized breeds. Finally, SMARTER will propose new breeding strategies that utilise R&E traits and trade-offs and balance economic, social and environmental challenges. The overall impact of the multi-actor SMARTER project will be ready-to-use effective and efficient tools to make small ruminant production resilient through improved profitability and efficiency.

More information and details of the SMARTER Project can be found in the web site of the project (here). Moreover, the first issue of the Newsletter of the Project has been produced and it is available here

SMARTER is coordinated by INRA (Dr. Carole Moreno-Romieux) and assembles 27 partners from 13 different countries and has received a funding from the European Commission (through the H2020-SFS-15-2016-2017)) for a project period of 4 years (2018-22).

ICAR, Via Savoia 78, sc. A int. 3, 00198 Rome, Italy - Email: icar@icar.org