Promoting collaboration and capacity building between the Italian Soil Partnership and close to 100 stakeholders

Italian SOIL HUB: comparing experiences for a soil monitoring network. The event, held both in person and remotely was intended as a discussion moment to promote collaboration and support capacity building.

The Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (MASAF) recently hosted the meeting "National SOIL HUB, Comparing Experiences for a National Soil Monitoring Network" as part of the activities envisaged by the European Joint Programme on Soil EJP SOIL. The main objective of the event was to promote a constructive dialogue between scientists, policy makers, professional associations, regional institutions and representatives of the Italian Soil Partnership, fostering the establishment of a national network for monitoring agricultural soils.

Appreciation to CREA researchers’ efforts in coordination of national activities related to sustainable soil management and agricultural soil monitoring

The meeting was opened with the institutional greetings of Dr. Gualtiero Bottini, DISRIV Director from MASAF, followed by the greetings of Dr. Stefano Vaccari, CREA Director General, and Prof. Giuseppe Corti, Director of the Centre for Agriculture and Environment (CREA – AA), who welcomed the work done by CREA researchers for the programmatic coordination of national activities related to sustainable soil management and agricultural soil monitoring.

Dr. Serenella Puliga from MASAF Research Office and Silvia Baralla from CREA, officially opened the event by explaining MASAF's international and national activities in the field of soil research and presenting the European programmes co-funded in Italy from 2004 to date, whose activities had the sustainability of agricultural soil as a common objective. Among these programmes is EJP SOIL, whose progresses and multi-actor strategic approaches were briefly introduced to the conveners by the Italian National Coordinator Dr. Rosario Napoli (CREA- AA), who was the head and main coordinator of the event.

CREA researchers’ participation in EJP SOIL projects

The scientific topics under investigation and the main results of the numerous internal projects with Italian participation were illustrated by CREA researchers Dr. Alessandra Trinchera, Dr. Stefano Mocali and Dr. Claudia Di Bene for the EJP SOIL projects:

  • MaxRoot-C
  • MixRoot-C
  • ∑ommit

  • Into-Dialogue
  • i-SoMPE
  • Steropes
  • EnergyLink.

Establishing a HUB of national experts to improve the Italian contribution to soil knowledge

The floor then passed to Dr. Roberta Farina (CREA - AA), head of the national project SOIL HUB, funded by MASAF to actively support EJP SOIL and harmonize its achievements at the national level. The Soil Hub project was launched as a mirror project of EJP SOIL and has supported its objectives since the very beginning by establishing a HUB of national experts to improve the Italian contribution to soil knowledge in the European context, by providing tools for the synthesis and integration of Italian research results, and by creating moments of connection and synergy between science and policy.

Protocol with key indicators and tools to assess soil functions

Likewise, the activities undertaken within the Italian Soil Partnership in the framework of the National Global Soil Partnership (GSP) emphasize this last point: as reported by Dr. Filiberto Altobelli, a reference protocol for soil monitoring was developed with the contribution of many Italian experts, which is in continuity with the "Voluntary guidelines on sustainable soil management", both published by FAO. The protocol includes key indicators and a set of tools to assess soil functions based on its physical and chemical characteristics and biological properties, as well as to set management priorities, such as the conservation of organic carbon and the enhancement of carbon sequestration through the application of more sustainable approaches. The topic  was taken up and deepened by Dr. Alessandro Monteleone, CREA researcher and coordinator of the National Rural Network, which gave a deep overview of the objectives and tools of the National Strategic Plan for CAP 2023-2027 in relation to the need for monitoring and quality assessment of agricultural soils, within the overall objective of modernizing agriculture in rural areas through innovation, digitalization and the promotion and sharing of knowledge.

Technical insights into the monitoring networks of Italian soils

Dr. Alessandra Pesce, Director of the CREA Center for Policies and Bioeconomy (CREA – PB), introduced the session dedicated to the technical insights into the monitoring networks of Italian soils, with special focus on the recovery and enhancement of regional soil services. Several experiences of monitoring networks on a regional scale were presented by Dr. Stefano Brenna (ERSAF Lombardia), Dr. Mauro Tiberi (Marche Region), Dr. Paola Tarocco (Emilia Romagna Region), and Dr. Francesca Assennato (ISPRA and SNPA). Overall, a certain heterogeneity of the methodological approaches was underlined. At the European level, the same issue relating to European monitoring networks in comparison with the LUCAS network was addressed by Dr. Maria Fantappiè (CREA – AA), which emphasized the need to develop harmonized methodologies and to create shared pedological databases in order to improve the accuracy of Italian agricultural policies.

Involving young researches to strengthen hopes for a sustainable future

The event continued with a lively and participative plenary discussion, where all parties expressed keen interest in participating in the establishment of a National Soil Monitoring network that, starting from the expertise already acquired in different Italian regions, can be extended to a national coverage through a due,  appropriate harmonization of methodological approaches and final purposes. At the end of the work, many pointed out the need and the possibility of involving younger Italian researchers as new recruits and future reference persons who will one day take on the "soil management mission": a handover that will strengthen hopes for a more sustainable future.

For more information:

Valentina Baratella:

Guido Bonati:  

Rosario Napoli: