3 October 2023

Mission Soil, the EU Commission allocates €90 million for 17 research projects

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The approved projects will help to restore soil health, protecting biodiversity and food production. 314 research centers will be involved, coming from 32 countries. A further step to achieve the 2030 objectives of the Mission Soil

by Emanuele Isonio

 

Restoring soil health, protecting the sustainable production of healthy foods, protecting biodiversity, building climate resilience, actions to achieve the objectives set by the European Green Deal. These are some of the areas in which the 17 new research projects in which the European Commission has decided to invest 90 million will operate, as part of its mission “A soil deal for Europe“.

Over 32 countries involved

The projects, which will be managed by the European Research Executive Agency, will see the participation of 314 entities from 32 countries: universities, research institutes, SMEs, businesses, local authorities and non-governmental organisations. In addition to the EU member states, countries (Israel, Kosovo, Norway, Serbia and Turkey) associated with Horizon Europe, the European Union’s framework program on research and innovation for the period 2021-2027, will also take part. In addition, there are four non-associated states (the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Switzerland).

The 17 new projects were selected by independent experts after a call for proposals phase which took place in 2022. 71 applications received and deemed eligible.

The objectives of the funded projects

The range of benefits expected from the different projects is very wide. Some will be concentrated on the monitoring front (a topic very dear to the Commission, especially after the proposal for a directive presented last July). Objective: to create a data archive to integrate knowledge on research and innovation on soil, provide indicators to measure biodiversity and ecosystem services, monitor the efforts made by land managers to sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Others will instead focus on reducing food processing waste. In this case, the objective of the projects financed by the Commission is to be able, on the one hand, to reduce their sending to landfill or incineration and, on the other, to valorise them from an industrial and economic point of view, recovering the nutrients in them contents and transforming them into raw material for organic soil improvers and natural fertilizers.

The tools in the field for soil health

The EU mission “A soil deal for Europe” kicked off in September 2021, as part of the Horizon Europe programme. Its aim is to guide the transition to restore the health of continental soils by the end of the decade, through the creation of a network of 100 living labs and lighthouse farms that act as models of good practices in the use of agricultural land to be borrowed and replicate on a large scale.

Alongside it, however, the EU has developed other tools: from the EU Soil Observatory, to the EU Soil Strategy and, lastly, the directive on soil monitoring and resilience which in the coming weeks should begin its process within of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.