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TESTING AND PROMOTING THE ADOPTION OF SOIL-IMPROVING CROPPING SYSTEMS ACROSS EUROPE


What is SoilCare?

If European crop production is to remain competitive while reducing environmental impacts, then the development and uptake of effective soil-improving cropping systems (SICS) is required. The overall aim of SoilCare was to identify and evaluate promising soil-improving cropping systems and agronomic techniques increasing profitability and sustainability across scales in Europe. A trans-disciplinary approach was used to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of a new generation of soil-improving cropping systems, incorporating all relevant bio-physical, socio-economic and political aspects.

Approach

Existing information from literature and long term experiments was analysed to develop a comprehensive methodology for assessing the performance of cropping systems at multiple levels. A multi-actor approach was used to select promising soil-improving cropping systems for scientific evaluation in 16 study sites across Europe covering different pedo-climatic and socio-economic conditions. Implemented cropping systems were monitored with stakeholder involvement, and were assessed jointly with scientists. Specific attention was paid to the adoption of soil-improving cropping systems and agronomic techniques within and beyond the study sites.

Upscaling to the European level

Results from study sites were up-scaled to the European level to draw general lessons about applicability potentials of soil-improving cropping systems and related profitability and sustainability impacts, including assessing barriers for adoption at that scale. An interactive tool was developed for end-users to identify and prioritise suitable soil-improving cropping systems anywhere in Europe.

SoilCare and policy

Current policies and incentives were assessed and targeted policy recommendations were provided. SoilCare took an active dissemination approach to achieve impact from local to European level, addressing multiple audiences, to enhance crop production in Europe to remain competitive and sustainable through dedicated soil care.

Project Objectives

In the project plan, a number of project objectives were formulated (SICS = Soil-improving Cropping System)

  • To review which SICS can be considered soil-improving, to identify current benefits and drawbacks, and to assess current and potential impact on soil quality and environment,
  • To select and trial SICS in 16 Study Sites across Europe, representing various pedo-climatic zones and socio-economic conditions following a multi-actor approach,
  • To develop and apply an integrated and comprehensive methodology to assess benefits, drawbacks and
    limitations, profitability and sustainability of SICS in the Study Sites, taking into account pedo-climatic, socio-economic and legislative conditions,
  • To study barriers for adoption and to analyse how farmers can be encouraged through appropriate incentives to adopt suitable SICS,
  • To develop and apply a method to upscale Study Site results to European level, taking into account different pedo-climatic and socio-economic conditions in different parts of Europe, to come up with Europe-wide information on which SICS would be most beneficial where in Europe,
  • To develop an interactive tool for selection of SICS throughout Europe,
  • To analyse the effect of agricultural and environmental policies on the adoption of SICS, and to support these policies in order to improve adoption,
  • To disseminate key information about SICS including agronomic techniques to all stakeholders.

The SoilCare project introductory leaflet provides details of the aims and objectives of the project and the partners involved. It is available in 14 different languages

    

SoilcareWPDiagram

 

WP1 Project Management  The overall objective of WP1 is two-fold: 1) to ensure proper activity management of the project, 2) to streamline administrative, financial, legal and IP (Intellectual Property) issues in order to enable RTD partners to focus on their research activities. Specific sub-objectives are:

  • Activity management to facilitate the smooth operation of the project objectives by supporting the coordinator, WP leaders and other partners, and compiling the periodic activity reports
  • To handle all the financial, administrative and legal matters of the consortium
  • Address gender equality issues in the project
  • To ensure good communication within the project, and to parties outside the consortium
  • To organize plenary project meetings and to facilitate the organization of Scientific Board meetings

WP2 Review of SICS  The main purpose of WP2 is to review and assess currently used soil-improving cropping systems and agronomic techniques in EU. Specific objectives are:

  • To review SICS and their key driving forces, in Europe,
  • To analyse the strong and weak points (SWOT analysis) of the identified SICS, using agronomic, environmental, and social-economic criteria,
  • To develop and test a framework for classifying SICS,
  • To derive threshold values for soil quality, and to identify the need for SICS as function of pedo-climatic zones in Europe, and
  • To develop and test a decision tool to be used for the pre-selection of key SICS.

WP3 Participatory selection of CS

  • Create multi-stakeholder advisory panels to guide and co-produce research in each study site
  • In collaboration with advisory panels, identify the most suitable ways and formats to disseminate project results within the study sites (in collaboration with WP8),
  • Using deliberative multi-criteria techniques, work with local consortium partners to facilitate local stakeholders in each study site to select cropping systems and agronomic techniques,
  • Collect evidence about social factors influencing the adoption of soil-improving innovations (identified initially by case study partners in WP2, and to inform the development of scenarios in WP6),
  • In selected sites, collect and analyse qualitative data to consider how the dynamics of trust and other factors may explain the social acceptability and adoption of soil-improving innovations such as new cropping systems.

WP4 Methodology to monitor and assess SICS  The main objective of WP4 is to develop a comprehensive methodology for assessing both benefits and drawbacks of different CS, which will serve for monitoring as well as evaluation purposes.
Specific objectives are:

  • To develop and test a comprehensive assessment methodology for Study Sites;
  • To elaborate a monitoring plan for each Study Site in collaboration with WP5.

WP5 Monitoring and assessment of SICS

  • Implement the SICS that were selected in WP3 for testing in collaboration with stakeholders
  • Monitoring these SICS for 2-3 years to be able to assess performance under different weather conditions
  • Determine which SICS would be most suitable for each site
  • Give demonstrations of SICS to stakeholder to share and discuss monitoring and assessment results
  • Building a common database which enables the comparison of the implementation, monitoring and assessment of the SICS at the study sites

WP6 Upscaling and synthesis  The main objectives of WP6 are to:

  • Synthesize and integrate the results obtained by WPs 3-5 in the different Study Sites in order to draw general conclusions for the application of SICS
  • Develop and apply a quantitative, spatially explicit model to assess the impact of soil-improving CS at the European level under a set of future scenarios
  • Develop an interactive tool to assess the potential for application of SICS throughout Europe.

WP7 Policy analysis and policy support To identify good policy alternatives to adopt the soil-improving techniques researched in the other WP’s. More specifically, WP7 focuses on the institutional (governance) aspects of achieving smarter and more sustainable agriculture and has the following aims:

  • To review current policies with relevance for soil quality, soil degradation, and adoption of SICS
  • To select policy alternatives to enhance soil quality and prevent land degradation in agriculture at various scales (Europe, national, sub-national and local) and following a participatory multi-actor approach.
  • To promote policies that can increase adoption of SICS, by translating scientific SoilCare results into policy briefings

WP8 Dissemination and Communication

  • Develop an advanced and easy accessible SoilCare Information Hub
  • Develop a Dissemination and Communication Strategy based on specified goals and objectives to raise the visibility of the project and to ensure project results reach the intended target audience
  • Develop a suite of dissemination products from the research outputs suited to different categories of stakeholders at Study Sites, national and European levels.