SFS-02a-2014 - External nutrient inputs
Specific challenge: European crop production is facing more and more difficulties in remaining competitive in the global market for many reasons. Some of these reasons are the loss of soil fertility and the consequent massive use of expensive external nutrient inputs, notably Nitrogen and Phosphorous, for which European agriculture is almost totally dependent on imported products, or on fertilizers produced with expensive industrial processes, which generates greenhouse gases (GHGs). Therefore, more sustainable crop management strategies are needed to maintain or increase soil fertility. Inappropriate soil and water management and the overuse of external inputs in intensive crop production systems, represent an economic loss for the farmer and a significant burden for the environment and subsequent impact on human health, as they contribute significantly to ground water and surface water pollution, GHGs emissions, the build-up in soil contaminants, such as heavy metals and organic pollutants. Better soil management and optimisation of fertilisers and water are of paramount importance for conciliating the necessary competitiveness and the long-term sustainability of the entire intensive crop production sector in Europe.
Scope: Proposals should address one of the following issues (A):
A.  External nutrient inputs
Proposals should find innovative and effective strategies to improve the management of external nutrient inputs and water, and optimise their use efficiency at farm level to improve both yield and quality. Novel approaches could include integration of precision farming latest tools and techniques, such as advanced automation, variable rate applications, remote sensing, field and crop sensors, ICT technologies, to achieve a comprehensive strategy for optimising external nutrient inputs and water management in European intensive agriculture and provide significant progress beyond the current state of the art. Novel technologies and approaches should allow reaching improved sustainability in different intensive crop production systems, decreasing negative impacts on the environment and providing better product quality and benefits to human health. In-field demonstration of the proposed technologies on a relevant scale to prove concept feasibility should also be foreseen. Proposals should fall under the concept of 'multi-actor approach'.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 8 million for (A) would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Expected Impact: Proposals should show how some, or all, of the following impacts will be achieved:
· Improvement of ground and surface water quality.
· Reduction of soil contaminations with toxic compounds and heavy metals.
· Conservation of biodiversity and wildlife.
· Improved human health, through the reduced release of pollutants and GHGs.
· Scientific support to relevant EU policies
· Sound scientific evaluation of benefits and drawbacks of soil-improving cropping systems and techniques.
· Reduction of soil erosion and improvement of soil quality and structure
· Increased European farmers’ competitiveness through the reduction of production costs.
· Reduction of the negative environmental impact of crop production through less soil disturbance, better exploitation of soil biodiversity and functions and more rational use of external inputs, water and natural resource base.
Type of action: Research and innovation actions
 Fertiliser regulation ((EC) No 2003/2003), Nitrate directive (1991), Soil Thematic strategy (COM (2006) 231)
 See definition of 'multi-actor approach' in footnote 1 in the introduction of this Work Programme part.