Methods and analysis tools for assessing the sustainability of cropping systems and ecosystem services of agricultural soils

An important dialogue opportunity within the EJP SOIL - ARTEMIS workshop

On September 29, the workshop entitled 'Methods and analytical tools for assessing the sustainability of farming systems and soil ecosystem services', held at the CREA – Research Center for Agriculture and the Environment (CREA-AA) in Rome, ended. It was a training course in the framework of the EJP SOIL - ARTEMIS project (, promoted by the project coordinator Dr. Klaus Jarosch (Agroscope, Switzerland) and the co-coordinator Dr. Claudia Di Bene (CREA-AA, Italy) and organised by the project partners CREA and LUKE (Finnish Institute for Natural Resources).

The workshop, held in English, was divided into three modules consisting of theoretical lectures, practical sessions and in-depth case studies of European agricultural systems with Mediterranean, Atlantic, Alpine, continental and boreal climates, to assess the impact of agroecological practices for climate change mitigation and adaptation: crop yield stability, carbon sequestration in soils and greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, with particular focus to nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes.

Module 1, entitled 'Research synthesis and meta-analysis in agro-environmental science', dealt with the topic of bibliographic research with the aim of at meta-analysis for the evaluation of agricultural systems. Meta-analysis is an increasingly used research tool for the quantitative synthesis of primary research in all scientific disciplines.  The elements for the selection of bibliographic articles were taught: inclusion and exclusion criteria and quality criteria, as well as a scoring scheme that enables qualitative/quantitative analysis, up to the presentation of the results in the form of a database that can be processed using statistical models. The module was taught by Dr Elena Valkama LUKE (Finland) and Julia Fohrafellner BIOS (Austria).

In Module 2, entitled 'Trade-off analysis', the trade-off assessment system, developed within the SOMMIT project, which is based on the selection of the most promising agricultural practices in terms of environmental sustainability, was analysed in detail. After an explanation of the methodological choices and fuzzy logic principles underlying the assessment procedure, the best agroecological management strategies in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, nitrate leaching and productivity derived from the meta-analysis and the methodology proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were compared for the subsequent application of the trade-off indicator in alternative climate and agricultural management scenarios. The module was led by Dr Simone Ugo Maria Bregaglio and Dr Roberta Calone from CREA-AA (Italy).

Module 3, entitled 'The ARMOSA model - Theory and first application', focused on the use of the ARMOSA model (Analysis of cropping systems to optimise sustainable management in agriculture) to simulate the impact of agroecological practices in the main European cropping systems. ARMOSA combines the modelling of atmosphere-crop-soil systems with field experiments to improve the understanding of agricultural systems. By identifying soil-plant-climate system inputs, the system provides representative indicators for current and future climate change scenarios. The module was led by Prof. Marco Acutis, Prof. Alessia Perego and Dr Marco Botta from the University of Milan (Italy).

The training course, which was open to participants in the ARTEMIS project and the EJP SOIL programme, was attended by 25 researchers from 7 European countries, including around 15 young researchers.

Its usefulness was confirmed by the results of the satisfaction questionnaire, which showed the full satisfaction of the participants, especially of the 15 young researchers, to have learnt new tools and rigorous methodologies of predictive analysis useful to define the sustainable management of agroecosystems, also through the definition of sector policies.


CREA – Research Center for Agriculture and the Environment:

Valentina Baratella,

Claudia Di Bene,

Rosanna Epifani,

CREA - Press Office:

Micaela Conterio,