Targets & Objectives

The main aim of EJP SOIL is to develop a sustainable framework for an integrated community of researchers working on related aspects of agricultural soil management. The major aspects of knowledge on agricultural soil management to be addressed are:

  1. Strengthen the European research community on agricultural soil management through a concerted alignment of research, training, and capacity building;
  2. Co-construct a roadmap for agricultural soil research with stakeholders;
  3. Fill the identified knowledge gaps by fostering research projects and synthesis through the organization of internal and external calls;
  4. Build human and institutional research capacity through targeted training end network building;
  5. Create harmonised soil information systems and foster their contribution to reporting through a combination of methodological transnational activities and research projects using geodatabases and combining soil information databases with remote sensing and models; and
  6. Support European policies on agriculture and climate by providing a scientific underpinning.   

The EJP SOIL programme targets key societal challenges such as food and water security, sustainable agricultural production, climate change adaptation and mitigation; ecosystem services delivery, biodiversity preservation and human health and well being.  


Sustainable agricultural production

Climate-smart sustainable management is the application of operations, practices, and treatments to protect soil and enhance its performance. It includes controlling traffic, avoiding excessive tillage, managing pests and nutrients efficiently, selecting adequate crops and rotations, keeping the soil covered, increasing diversity (crops, soil, landscape), managing irrigation efficiently, adding organic matter. 

Carbon sequestration

  • Carbon is sequestered in soil by plants through photosynthesis and can be stored as soil organic carbon (SOC).
  • Carbon sequestration secures carbon dioxide to prevent it from entering the Earth’s atmosphere.  
  • Improved agricultural practices can help mitigate climate change by reducing emissions from agriculture and other sources and by storing carbon in plant biomass and soils.  
  • EJP SOIL will contribute by developing new knowledge on carbon sequestration in agricultural soils under different conditions across Europe and its contribution to climate change mitigation.

Healthy Soils

  • Soil health is the capacity of soil to function as a living system, with ecosystem and land use boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and promote plant and animal health.
  • Healthy soils maintain a diverse community of soil organisms that help to control plant disease, insect and weed pests, form beneficial symbiotic associations with plant roots; recycle essential plant nutrients; improve soil structure with positive repercussions for soil water and nutrient holding capacity, and ultimately improve crop production" (FAO, 2008).
  • A healthy soil does not pollute its environment and does contribute to mitigating climate change by maintaining or increasing its carbon content.  

Land and soil restoration

  • Land restoration is the process of ecological restoration of a site to a natural landscape and habitat, safe for humans, wildlife, and plant communities.   
  • Land and soil restoration focus on areas affected by soil erosion, land slides, loss of soil quality, and loss of natural vegetation. 

Biodiversity

  • Biodiversity describes the richness and variety of life on earth. It is the most complex and important feature of our planet. Without biodiversity, life would not sustain.
  • Biodiversity holds ecological and economic significance. It provides us with nourishment, housing, fuel, clothing and several other resources. It also extracts monetary benefits through tourism.
  • Therefore, it is very important to have a good knowledge of biodiversity for a sustainable livelihood.

Ecosystem services

  • Ecosystem services are services which nature provides us with and which contribute to human wellbeing. Often this natural contribution is interwoven with human labour or other forms of intervention.
  • Ecosystem services are direct and indirect contributions to human wellbeing
  • Ecosystem services depend on the ecosystems which are present around us.
  • Ecosystems include both living things (plants, animals and organisms) and non-living elements of the environment (weather, water, soil, climate, atmosphere, etc.) interacting reciprocally. 
  • Ecosystem services provide us with goods and materials, and contribute largely to our health and wellbeing both physical and spiritual.

Objectives:

Societal level:

  • Rise general public awareness and foster improved societal understanding of agricultural soil management and its contribution to sustainable agricultural production, climate change adaptation, mitigation, and all other ecosystem services delivery and environment protection, and more specifically of the large climate change mitigation potential via agricultural soil organic carbon sequestration

Operational level:

  • Strengthen the European research community on agricultural soil management, through an alignment and implementation of research, training and capacity building
  • Develop harmonized agricultural soil information systems and promote their adoption to contribute to international reporting and achieve global consistency and applicability of agricultural soil information, including on soil carbon and biodiversity

Policy level:

  • Develop evidence-based recommendations for policy makers at EU, national, and regional levels including options for farm level documentation of agricultural soil carbon sequestration from improved soil management practices
  • Establish a strategic multi-actor approach and initiate a science-policy-practitioner-society dialogue on agricultural soil health and adequate agricultural practices to support the adoption of the policy recommendations
  • Foster the uptake of climate-smart sustainable agricultural soil management practices by practitioners 

Scientific level:

  • Develop new insights on climate-smart agricultural soil management, quantify trade-offs and synergies between sustainable agricultural production, climate change adaptation and mitigation, soil degradation, biodiversity, soil quality and other ecosystem services such as erosion control, to build a reference framework for sustainable agricultural soil management
  • Develop new knowledge on carbon sequestration in agricultural soils under different conditions across Europe and its contribution to climate change mitigation. Improve accounting and reporting tools for emission and removals from agricultural activities
  • Provide scientific underpinning to support agricultural and climate policies at multiple scales (local to global)


Expected impacts

The long term Expected Impact of EJP SOIL is that the farming sector becomes a steward of land and soil resources in Europe and farmers contribute to the adaptation of agroecosystems to climate change and to climate change mitigation. To achieve this, a long-term alignment of agricultural soil research in Europe is needed. EJP SOIL has six expected areas of impact related to changes in practices, capacity, and policy resulting from the use of programme outputs and outcomes:  

  1. Fostering understanding of soil management and its influence on climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable agricultural production and environment.
  2. Understanding how soil-carbon sequestration can contribute to climate change mitigation at the regional level and accounting for carbon.
  3. Strengthening scientific capacities and cooperation across Europe including training young soil scientists.
  4. Supporting harmonized European soil information, including for international reporting. 
  5. Fostering the uptake of soil management practices conducive to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
  6. Develop and demonstrate region- and context-specific fertilization practices (soil, water and pedoclimatic conditions).   

Read more about the European Roadmap -  The Roadmap for EJP SOIL functions as an agenda for the activities of EJP SOIL and describes a vision for climate-smart and sustainable agricultural soil management.