EJP Soil, the joint EU research program on climate and soil, gets into action. From sustainable agriculture to CO2 sequestration, there is a wide range of issues to explore. The goal? Providing new solutions for Europe and the Planet.
By Matteo Cavallito
“Building a sustainable European integrated research system on agricultural soils and developing and deploy a reference framework on climate-smart sustainable agricultural soil management”. That’s the goal of EJP SOIL, the European Joint Programme for soils established by the European Commission with the involvement of 24 Member States. The plan, in particular, aims to launch integrated research on a European scale to identify new solutions for better exploiting the potential of the soil while preserving its health. The soil, as is well known, plays a key role due to its ability to capture CO2. For sustainable management strategies, the development of this property – through the addition of organic matter, for example – goes hand in hand with the implementation of agricultural best practices. These may help decreasing dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.
Four climate goals
The European Programme has set four main goals. At societal level, it aims “to rise general public awareness and foster improved societal understanding of agricultural soil management” underlying the importance of “ecosystem services delivery”. At operational level, according to the promoters, the Plan recommends to “strengthen the European research community” and to develop harmonized agricultural soil information systems in order “to contribute to international reporting and achieve global consistency and applicability of agricultural soil information”.
At policy level, the goal is to “develop evidence-based recommendations for policy makers” trough “a science-policy-practitioner-society dialogue”. Finally, at scientific level, the initiative aims to “develop new insights on climate-smart agricultural soil management”. The idea, in other words, is to “provide scientific underpinning to support agricultural and climate policies at multiple scales from local to global”.
Ten projects starring agriculture
In recent weeks, Claire Chenu, professor of soil science at AgroParisTech University and coordinator of the European program, announced the launch of ten new projects. Among them is the Belgian study CLIMASOMA or “Climate change adaptation through soil and crop management” on climate adaptation and the projects on high-definition mapping of soil spatial variation STEROPES, in France, and SensRes, in Denmark.
Other studies conducted in Austria, Belgium and Sweden focus on the analysis of the erosion process, best practices for sustainable agriculture and ecosystem services.
Italy is also involved
Finally, other research focuses on climate mitigation. Among these, the Sommit Project aims to identify the best strategies to promote carbon sequestration and increase soil fertility. Italy also contributes to the initiative by taking part to the research through CREA, the Research Council for Agriculture and Agrarian Economy of the Ministry of Agriculture. The German project CarboSeq, which aims to estimate the potential of CO2 sequestration in agricultural soils, is also working on related issues. The list of projects includes the TRACE-Soils initiative (Spain), which aims to evaluate, in terms of costs and benefits, the relationship between carbon retention and nutrient loss in the soil, and the Finnish INSURE program on CO2 capture and climate mitigation through rewetting of peat soils.