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Crop diversification and low-input farming across Europe: from practitioners engagement and ecosystems services to increased revenues and chain organisation

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - Diverfarming (Crop diversification and low-input farming across Europe: from practitioners engagement and ecosystems services to increased revenues and chain organisation)

Período documentado: 2021-05-01 hasta 2022-10-31

The interrelationship among the actors in the agricultural value chain is complex, and the entire agricultural system must be adapted and optimised in response to environmental, technical and socioeconomic constraints derived from existing unsustainable and low resource-efficient production models. The recent intensification of agriculture has resulted in soil degradation, reduced biodiversity and increased economic risk for farmers. So, there is now a growing emphasis on crop diversification and optimised use of resources.
Diverfarming aims of increasing diversification and biodiversity in Europe and fostering sustainable development of bioeconomy. Diverfarming will increase the long-term resilience, sustainability and economic revenues of agriculture across the EU by assessing the real benefits and minimising the limitations, barriers and drawbacks of diversified cropping systems using low-input practices that are tailor-made to fit the unique characteristics of six EU pedoclimatic regions, and by adapting and optimising the downstream value chains organization through executing field case studies. This approach will provide: i) increased overall land productivity; ii) more rational use of farm land and farming inputs (water, energy, machinery, fertilisers, pesticides); ii) improved delivery of ecosystem services by increments in biodiversity and soil quality; iii) proper organization of downstream value chains adapted to the new diversified cropping systems with decreased use of energy; and iv) access to new markets and reduced economy risks by adoption of new products in time and space.
Data mining and decision-making was developed, with the establishment of the baseline for the experimental design in RP1. 24 case studies started their activities to assess the effects of diversified cropping systems on i) crop yield, crop quality and nutritional status; ii) biodiversity; iii) soil quality; iv) erosion; v) carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions; and vi) gross margins (RP1-RP2). All case studies monitored pests/diseases, identifying damage proportion (RP1-RP3). Soil from field case studies was sampled three times for physical, chemical and biodiversity analyses, together with vegetation richness and cover and erosion (RP2-RP3). Results indicate that crop diversification has to be tailored to the specific pedoclimatic, cultural and technical characteristics of the area, and if properly tailored, has positive agronomic and environmental benefits (RP4). Machinery innovation needs in Europe were identified (RP3). The prototype for machinery innovation has been launched (RP4). We have performed a value chain analysis and mapping (RP2), and the assessment of the value chain conditions on the adoption and diffusion of cropping systems under sustainable practices (RP3-RP4). Guidelines need to consider the relevance of financial motives and the effect of subsidies on farmers (RP4). The model to simulate C and N dynamics was fully calibrated and able to simulate accurately in all pedoclimatic zones (RP3). Upscaling modelled and measured data from farm level to landscape scale has been performed and integrated into the DST "SusDiver" (RP4). A set of indicators to assess the sustainability of diversified cropping systems at field and farm scale was selected (RP2) and integrated into the DST "SusDiver" (RP4). The DST is freely available for download on Google and Apple App Stores, integrating results from agronomic, environmental and economic indicators, together with upscaling and modelling results and the main value chains in each case study (RP4). Non-market valuation in three different countries was carried out (RP2). Evaluation of gross margin calculations was done (RP3), together with the economic analysis along the value chain and integration and integrated and cross-case study comparative economic analysis(RP4). This assessment evinced that crop diversification does not provide significant changes in farm-level economic results and, in case it does, they are expected to be positive (RP4). We investigated the current agricultural policies to understand how the theme of diversification is dealt with (RP2) and what the tools are that policy makers have "devised" to encourage the adoption of certain practices (RP3). A White Paper integrating the results of all project WPs have been released with the identification of current barriers and policy recommendations (RP4). We have followed the communication and dissemination plan with continuously updated Diverfarming website and profiles in social media with the release of dissemination materials (RP1-RP4)
Efforts have previously focused on the effects of farming systems and practices on crop yields and quality and delivery of ecosystem services, and little attention has been paid on the economic, social and cultural effects of these systems/practices. Few show data about the positive effects of crop diversification on farm productivity and ecosystem services, and even less about the reduction in economic and environmental costs. Moreover, previous projects did not provide sound scientific data about the adaptation pathways of the value chain to crop diversification. Within Diverfarming, the most adequate crop associations by technical, economic, social, cultural and environmental terms, agreed by all actors, have been assessed. Diverfarming perceives the European agricultural sector as a whole, but addressed under different approaches according to the specific needs, strengths, barriers and opportunities of each agroecosystem. Application of a bottom-up decision-making process through a multicriteria model and multi-actor approach is novel in agrarian management.
The outputs of Diverfarming are: Decision Support Tool "SusDiver" (RP4), Guidelines for sustainable diversified cropping systems (RP4), Protocol for the correct implementation of diversified systems (RP4), Methodological guidelines and toolbox for value chain adaptation (RP4), Qualified machinery prototype for intercropping (RP4), Communities of Practitioners as volunteer early adopter farmers and agribusinesses recruited to develop diversified cropping systems in their farming systems as real scenarios, and ensure longevity beyond the project (RP2); White Paper to scientifically support relevant policies (RP4).
The potential impacts of the project are: a) higher arable land productivity, and land-equivalent ratio, b) diversification and increase of farmers’ revenues by access to new markets and reduced economic risk, c) lower environmental impact of diversified cropping systems, d) improved delivery of ecosystem services, e) organization of resource-efficient value chains and decreased use of energy, f) market provision of food, feed and industrial products from diversified cropping systems, g) increased awareness and knowledge exchanges among actors, h) support to relevant EU policies, i) territorial cohesion benefits from enhanced agricultural productivity and more resilient agricultural holdings, j) strengthening of the competitiveness of a range of companies and organizations active in the value chain and bioeconomy, by creating opportunities for growth and new job positions. These impacts have been validated in RP4, with the identification of possible barriers, drawbacks and trade-offs.
10 reasons why you should forget monoculture and become "diverfarmer"
Combinations of crops valued in field case studies in Diverfarming
Diverfarming general overview
Diverfarming field case studies: short-term (blue) and long-term (orange; > 10 years)