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6th International Workshop of the
European Fine Fibre Network

Future perspectives
on European Speciality Fibre Research

Edited by

Jerry Laker & John Milne

Macaulay Land Use Research Institute



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When the European Fine Fibre Network was created, there was a pressing need to find environmentally acceptable alternatives to existing livestock enterprises in marginal agricultural areas. It was known that speciality fibre production had the potential to have a large influence on the generation of wealth in rural communities throughout Europe, but that, in spite of a number of successful small-scale projects, this potential could not be realised without some intensive R&D work to improve the systems available to farmers. The European Fine Fibre Network, for the first time, created an international community of workers involved in this R&D work. It has provided the opportunity for each to see and understand the opportunities and constraints acting on speciality fibre development in other European countries and to see at first hand the successes and shortcomings of other work in their field. Above all, it has demonstrated the advantages to all of international cooperation and collaboration between research workers.

The need for livestock alternatives remains, and the last three years have been particularly marked by increasing interest, on the part of farmers, politicians and the research community, in fibre production, particularly cashmere and mohair in the south of Europe. Pilot projects have been established, and the preliminary results look promising. The commercial exploitation remains, though, undeveloped, and will remain so until systems are available to farmers that can be seen to be an improvement on the existing, heavily subsidised, mainstream enterprises. To achieve this situation will require further research work, particularly in the fields of genetic improvement, marketing, and the biology of fibre growth. These fields urgently require support tools, such as a rapid and cost-effective method for assessing fibre quality to identify superior breeding stock, and a European-wide genetic database of performance parameter records for the various fibre species, to be established.

This concluding workshop aims brought together representatives of all the areas of relevant research, with as wide as possible a range of interests. The objective is to identify and prioritise a series of research objectives that need to be addressed in the future; to develop ideas for interdisciplinary, collaborative research, and to integrate these ideas with the broader requirements of the European Union for future research in agriculture and rural development.

In this way, it is intended that we can prepare an action plan for future research that will be well-targeted to address the real need for research in specific areas, to the overall research objectives of the EU, and to the physical and financial resources available.