EJP SOIL already a strong and active research community on agricultural soil management

The Annual Science Days 2022 demonstrates that major steps have been made in developing new knowledge, gaining insight and seizing opportunities of research outputs. EJP SOIL is an integrated and interconnected community of researchers effectively addressing a broad variety of issues within soil science: from access to data and infrastructure to capacity building and innovation.

The EJP SOIL General meeting and Annual Science Days 2022 took place in Palermo 7 – 9 June with UNIPA as the host for the event. Intensive days providing an excellent overview of European soil research and the wealth of the EJP SOIL projects. The energy and motivation from everyone present was striking. After more than two years with COVID-19 restrictions, it was amazing to finally see each other in person and discuss soil science with international colleagues.

The uniqueness of EJP SOIL

The EJP SOIL was referred to as a dinosaur – a metaphor for the size of the programme. A huge animal, very much alive, and still growing. Another metaphor used was that of EJP SOIL as a big tanker. Just as the Mission 'A Soil Deal for Europe' and the European Soil Strategy is moving into action, EJP SOIL results begin to emerge. While the EJP SOIL has the capacity and vast expertise to drill deep into the agricultural soil area, strong opportunities exist for collaboration, complementarity and exchange of methods and outcomes, such as indicators and data, with other initiatives and projects, for instance the exchange of scientific progress and synthesize outcomes for policy advice. All supporting the European Commission in implementing the Soil Mission.

EJP SOIL strongly echoes to existing or to come public policies related to soils. This was very clear with the policy framework presented by the EC, but also in the objectives of work packages and research projects presented as well as in panel discussions, e.g. on carbon farming.

The size of the programme allowed the development of  a very active community of soil researchers across EJP SOIL member states. Very  diverse, and very active in terms of making scientific progress and in providing evidence for policymaking and practice. An innovative combination characterizing the uniqueness of the EJP SOIL programme.

Highlights – to name a few

It will never do justice to attempt to summarize all the excellent takeaways from the Annual Science Days in Palermo. However, to name a few for inspiration and to encourage active engagement and dialogue as stakeholders through national hubs, here is a selection:

  • The outputs of the project MINOTAUR will be policy recommendations. It uses 49 data sources and 23 EU projects to identify and develop indicators to taxonomical and functional status of soil biodiversity.
  • ΣOMMIT proposes a unique tool, which combines different effects (C sequestration, GHG emissions and N leaching) of agricultural practices in one value (the SOMMIT index). Useful, for reporting emissions from agricultural sector.
  • Road4Schemes is reviewing 164 worldwide schemes of incentives for farmers for C sequestration. The success of the schemes are being assessed by analysing the impact of the measures being used and their adoption.
  • EOM4SOIL project aims to deliver Best Management Practices to maximize benefits and reduce risks associated with applying organic amendments.
  • AGROECOseqC is focused on ecological intensification with the aim to boost the plants, soil interaction and the microbial functional diversity and different cropping systems. The main question to be answered: Can fungi sequester C as stable SOC and at which rate?
  • Carboseq will quantify the potential for soil carbon sequestration by including not only the biophysical and technical potentials but also the economical sequestration potential.
  • TraceSoils checks the synergies and trade-offs of measures in agroecosystems, concerning greenhouse gases and nutrients. The project has three pillars: review+measure+propose. 770 worldwide papers were reviewed! Performed measurements of 1100 samples were collected from 7 long term experiments, in different countries, which share common characteristics regarding tillage measures. Actions that will lead to proposal of measures in 2023.
  • STEROPES seeks to advance in the methodology to quickly update SOC maps. This is done using remote sensing. Preliminary results from some of the participant areas show the need for further work integrating disturbing factors in the models for SOC prediction. The STEROPES team is working on standardizing the methodology used and test application with the LUCAS database.

Understanding stakeholders and developing solutions together

Communicating and disseminating all results and outputs requires the ability to listen. The EJP SOIL works with National Soil Hubs of key stakeholders across Europe. National hub members represent the breath of national key stakeholders. Their role is to engage, provide feedback, voicing national positions and needs, contribute to, and learn from the work done in the EJP SOIL research activities. National hub members are the EJP SOIL ambassadors. During the Annual Science Days, the need to further develop this mutual collaboration and engagement has become very clear.

National hubs are essential in our understanding of how no one solution fits all. Our national hubs enable the EJP SOIL to tailor communication and dissemination of the outputs to the respective stakeholders. Instead of throwing knowledge at them, EJP SOIL is determined to seize the opportunity of stakeholder involvement and co-creation of research with the focus on what is needed.

The Virtual Academy caught the attention

The initiative by BOKU of the Virtual Academy burned itself into the mind of many. A simple but effective approach to knowledge sharing in online monthly meetings. Read the more detailed introduction the Virtual Academy by clicking here.

Looking forward to the Annual Science Days 2023

Experiencing the first physical event has shown the need to expand the time given to this EJP SOIL knowledge exchange event. Next year, there will be more results to exchange;

More new knowledge development and new insight to share. It will be fascinating to see how projects will build upon each other’s’ results, and experience how the EJP SOIL community will grow even larger.


For more information:

EJP SOIL Coordination: e-mail: ejpsoilcoord@inrae.fr