AFBI in €80M EU consortium on ‘Climate-smart sustainable management of agricultural soils’

Date published: 06 January 2021

Area of Expertise:

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) has joined forces with 25 institutions from 24 EU countries to deliver a European Joint Programme focusing on agricultural soils. ‘EJP SOIL’ (www.ejpsoil.org) will contribute significantly to the key societal challenges of climate change and future food supply. AFBI’s Dr Dario Fornara will be a key scientist contributing to the project.

Representatives of 26 EU institutions at the EJP SOIL Kick-Off meeting in Orléans, France

EJP SOIL is 50% funded by the European Commission (under Horizon 2020) to the value of €80M and the remaining 50% will be funded from member states and associated countries.

The overall objective of EJP SOIL is to provide sustainable agricultural soil management solutions that contribute to key societal challenges including climate change and future food supply. EJP SOIL targets climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable agricultural production, ecosystem services and restoration and prevention of land and soil degradation.

EJP SOIL aims to develop knowledge, tools and an integrated research community to foster climate-smart sustainable agricultural soil management, i.e. agricultural soil management that allows sustainable food production, sustains soil biodiversity, as well as other soil functions that preserve the ecosystem services that soils deliver.

The EJP project is important for the Northern Ireland (NI) agri-food industry because AFBI’s work will contribute to developing state-of-the-art knowledge on soil carbon sequestration and soil health. Also, the involvement and feedback from key stakeholders in NI will allow AFBI to propose solutions to enhance soil sustainability across livestock-based grassland systems in NI as well as improving the communication among scientists, farmers and policy makers.

The implementation of climate smart sustainable soil management differs from region to region, between agricultural practices and obviously between different soil types. As one of its first activities, EJP SOIL has involved European and national stakeholders in identifying knowledge gaps and differences in existing regional and national activities. The stocktaking exercise has established the baseline of available knowledge and tools in partner countries and has helped to identify research priorities. Going forward this will enable the construction of a roadmap that will function as a strategic research agenda to allow strategic decision making in science, policy and implementation issues across Europe.

Under the EJP SOIL initiative, AFBI will soon start work on a number of projects in NI.  These projects complement the work commissioned to AFBI from DAERA.  They will involve multiple EU partners and will focus on ‘Soil organic carbon sequestration potential of agricultural soils in Europe’ (CarbpoSeq); ‘Sensor data for downscaling digital soil maps to higher resolutions’ (SensRes); Stocktaking for Agricultural Soil Quality and Ecosystem Services Indicators and their Reference Values and designing Innovative Soil Management Practices across Europe (i-SoMPE).

EJP SOIL will seek to raise general public awareness and improve understanding of agricultural soil management. A key output for EJP SOIL is that farmers, landowners, land managers and industry will get access to context-specific guidelines for sustainable soil management practices, technology and tools for carbon level accounting. Among other outcomes, this will lead to possibilities for the implementation of agricultural soil management options, accounting for the potential effect on soil organic carbon stocks and GHG emissions.

At the policy level, the aim is to identify data gaps and priority needs for new knowledge and enhance evidence-based recommendations for policy-making at European and regional levels.

The EJP SOIL programme has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 652615

Notes to editors: 

AFBI is an arms-length body of DAERA delivering research and development, diagnostic and analytical testing, emergency response capability and expert scientific advice for DAERA and other government departments, public bodies and commercial companies in Northern Ireland, and further afield.

AFBI’s Vision is “Advancing the Local and Global Agri-Food Sectors Through Scientific Excellence”.

AFBI’s core areas:

-          Leading improvements in the agri-food industry;
-          Protecting animal, plant and human health;
-          Enhancing the natural and marine environment.

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