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The kick-off of the H2020 SCALA-MEDI project took place on September 7

@H2020 PRIMA SCALA-MEDI
The kick-off of the H2020 SCALA-MEDI project gathered the 17 European partners for the launch of this project whose objective is the Improvement of the sustainability and quality of sheep and poultry productions by the enhancement of the adaptation potential of local breeds in the MEDIterranean area. The development of animal biobanks supported by CRB-Anim is included in the project with a deliverable on the status of collections and a proposal for networking biobanks between the 3 North African countries.

The SCALA-MEDI project will characterize the genetic and phenotypic diversity of local Mediterranean breeds of sheep and chicken and study their ability to adapt to harsh environments and management systems.

The project will exploit data produced in other EU projects and generate new molecular and phenotypic data, both for traditional production traits, as well as for remote phenotyping of adaptation-related traits, also exploring the epigenomic status of animals bred under different environmental conditions.

Data and samples will be collected on 17 local breeds of sheep and 15 populations of village chickens from different bioclimatic environments in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. The local resources will be characterized in terms of breeding system, diversity, distinguishing traits and adaptive traits, taking advantage of local expertise and that available in Italy and France. Genomic data will be analyzed to identify markers linked to adaptive traits and allowing authentication of products; they will be used to create decision support tools to improve conservation and breeding programs and management strategies for Mediterranean livestock production systems to cope with future climate change scenarios. Diversity management tools, breeding and crossbreeding strategies will be tested to improve sustainable production and exploit adaptation, thus increasing the value of local populations. This will promote their use and safeguard local genetic resources through on-farm conservation. The selection tools will be tested in nursery herds and breeding centers, as part of a comprehensive dissemination and knowledge transfer plan to ensure the application of the project results.

The added value of the selected local populations will promote the exploitation of the results beyond the end of the project. SCALA-MEDI will use the data collected on genetic diversity to optimize cryopreservation strategies to ensure that biodiversity is saved when needed. Existing local biobanks in North Africa will be trained in the latest techniques and will be strengthened by creating links with biobanks operating in the Mediterranean basin.

SCALA-MEDI has an international and interdisciplinary team including experts in breeding, animal selection, animal physiology, veterinary sciences, conservation biology, population genetics, molecular genetics, reproductive biotechnologies, statistics and socio-economics, as well as a super computing center, breeders' associations and SMEs to ensure that the objectives are achieved.

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