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SFS-04-2014 - Soil quality and function

Specific challenge: Agricultural soils provide the basis for crop and animal production and in turn are impacted by the different types of land use, water quality, management practices, choice of crops, cultivars and genotypes. Effects include not only changes to chemical and physical soil properties but also to the composition of the soil biological community and plant-soil-microbial interactions. Understanding this complex and fragile interplay is crucial for developing on-farm soil management and conservation practices to increase agricultural productivity whilst avoiding degradation of this virtually non-renewable resource in environmentally sustainable ways.

Scope: Proposals should provide a comprehensive analysis of the various types of agricultural land use in Europe along with the effects of agricultural land use and management on soil properties and soil functioning. They should further propose ways by which the 'soil environmental footprint' of different cropping systems and management interventions can be established. Proposals should test new approaches to on-farm management that enhance key soil attributes for crop productivity and yield stability taking into account below and above ground aspects. Work should take into account various types of crop and livestock farming systems and pedo-climatic zones across the EU. In line with the objectives of the EU strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation and in particular with the implementation of the EU-China dialogue, proposals are encouraged to include third country participants, especially those established in China[1]. Proposals should fall under the concept of 'multi-actor approach'[2] and allow for adequate involvement of the farming sector in proposed activities.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 3–5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact:

         Improved capacity and methods to assess soil-management interactions and their impact on soil functions

         widely accessible and cost efficient tools to monitor the 'health status' of agricultural soils by practitioners in the agricultural sector

         increases in crop productivity, quality, and yield stability in conventional and organic farming systems through improved practices for soil husbandry including crop rotations

         enhanced climate and environmental performance of agricultural activities (e.g. through reduced adverse impacts on agricultural soils)

         support to CAP environmental objectives and development of further policies in the area.

Type of action:  Research and innovation actions

[1] This is without prejudice to the general rules on the funding of legal entities from third-countries, as set in part A of the annex to the work programme.

[2] See definition of 'multi-actor approach' in footnote 1 in the introduction of this Work Programme part.