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Low-Input Farming and Territories - Integrating knowledge for improving ecosystem-based farming

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LIFT (Low-Input Farming and Territories - Integrating knowledge for improving ecosystem-based farming)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

Ecological approaches to farming practices are gaining interest across Europe. As this interest grows there is a
pressing need to assess the potential contributions these practices may make, the contexts in which they function
and their attractiveness to farmers as potential adopters. In particular, ecological agriculture must be assessed against
the aim of promoting the improved performance and sustainability of farms, rural environment, rural societies and
economies, together.
The overall goal of LIFT is to identify the potential benefits of the adoption of ecological farming in the European
Union (EU) and to understand how socio-economic and policy factors impact the adoption, performance and
sustainability of ecological farming at various scales, from the level of the single farm to that of a territory.
To meet this goal, LIFT will assess the determinants of adoption of ecological approaches, and evaluate the
performance and overall sustainability of these approaches in comparison to more conventional agriculture across a
range of farm systems and geographic scales. LIFT will also develop new private arrangements and policy instruments
that could improve the adoption and subsequent performance and sustainability of the rural nexus. For this, LIFT will
suggest an innovative framework for multi-scale sustainability assessment aimed at identifying critical paths toward
the adoption of ecological approaches to enhance public goods and ecosystem services delivery. This will be achieved
through the integration of transdisciplinary scientific knowledge and stakeholder expertise to co-develop innovative
decision-support tools.
The project will inform and support EU priorities relating to agriculture and the environment in order to promote the
performance and sustainability of the combined rural system. At least 30 case studies will be performed in order to
reflect the enormous variety in the socio-economic and bio-physical conditions for agriculture across the EU.
Communication tools have been set up and communication about the project has been largely carried out.

On a scientific point of view, literature reviews have been carried out on: existing farm typologies (D1.1); drivers behind the adoption of ecological approaches (D2.1); farm performance (MS16, MS17); current policies encouraging the adoption of ecological farming (D6.1; MS23).
Based on this and additional literature screening, methodological guidelines have been developed for: the assessment of drivers behind the adoption of ecological approaches (MS7; MS8; MS9); the assessment of performance along several dimensions (MS13; MS14; MS15; MS17); the assessment of the impact of an innovative policy instrument (MS25); the collection of primary data (MS1; MS5; D2.2; MS14); the interaction with stakeholders in structured workshops (MS27, MS29) and qualitative interviews (MS1; MS7; MS13).

These methodologies have started to be implemented in the first reporting period and will be fully applied in the second reporting period. Hence, no major results have been achieved so far.
Progress beyond the state of the art will be achieved through the delivery of: an innovative farm typology of ecological approaches, going beyond the existing ones; an innovative framework of multi-scale sustainability assessment; innovative public and private instruments to encourage the adoption of ecological practices and enhance the performance and sustainability of ecological agriculture.

Expected results are:
- To provide a novel typology of farms defining the level of uptake of ecological approaches into the system of each farm
- To identify the sources of performance and sustainability differences between farms of different types, size and output complexity as observed in the landscape of the EU
- To draw forward recommendations for policy, market structure and governance to improve performance and sustainability of ecological agriculture in the medium to longer term
- To provide integrated transdisciplinary scientific and stakeholder expertise, and knowledge-based tools capable of producing recommendations to improve the performance and sustainability of farms, to preserve the environment and boost the rural economy

Potential impacts are:
• “Improved integrated capacity and method to assess the sustainability of different agro-ecological approaches”

• “Increases in productivity, delivery of public goods and job creation through improved agro-ecological approaches and market and policy incentives”

• “Strengthened transdisciplinary research and integrated scientific support for relevant EU policies and priorities (Common Agricultural Policy, Water Framework Directive, climate change objectives, jobs, etc.).”

• Enhanced innovation capacity of private companies or farmers’ organisations by triggering new forms of cooperation between the stakeholders

• New market opportunities in the territories covered by the case studies

• Strengthen the competitiveness of the EU agricultural sector in terms of exports

• Suggestions on how to mitigate environmental issues including climate change

• Suggestions on how to foster employment in territories

• Promoting gender equality towards the farming population