CORDIS - EU research results

Transition towards a more carbon and nutrient efficient agriculture in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Nutri2Cycle (Transition towards a more carbon and nutrient efficient agriculture in Europe)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2021-09-30

Intensified agriculture is crucial for the EU food supply and self-sufficiency, but it also generates environmental challenges related to GHG emissions and nutrient related pressure. In addition, European agriculture is under economic pressure due to its high dependency on import of primary nutrients and energy. Nutri2Cycle aims to enable the transition from the current suboptimal nutrient household in EU agriculture to the next-generation of agronomic practices, characterized by an improved cycling of nutrients and organic carbon.

Departing from existing management systems Nutri2Cycle envisages to benchmark CNP flows and propose, test and implement more mature, optimized management systems including innovative technologies to better close the loops. The planned demonstrations in different member states will leverage end-user driven systemic innovation and thus serve as an innovation engine to further extrapolate the farm level impact to regional and European level impact. In addition, the ‘human factor’ will be analyzed, scrutinizing the consumers’ preferences and willingness to pay for more environmental friendly products thus produced and determining the factors that influence the willingness of farmers to adopt novel technologies. By encompassing the entire value chain Nutri2Cycle will highlight operational, regulatory, institutional or contextual barriers to overcome. This will guide EU agriculture to become more self-sufficient and more resilient towards geopolitical dependencies while at the same time tackling environmental challenges and thus evolve towards a more circular economy.
Nutri2Cycle serves as a catalyst to greatly increase the market uptake and geographic replication of agronomic success stories that lead to more efficient nutrient loops. By the end of the 2nd period the following was achieved:

- Current CNP flows, systems and their drivers in Europe have been mapped to have a baseline reference against which to benchmark the proposed innovations/solutions.

- A collection of information and experiences has been done on a large variety of innovations on the ground from pioneering farmers & agri-businesses, operational groups (OGs) and pilot solutions (105 solutions/innovations), selecting 76 longlist innovative solutions that then went through a refining process (innovation funnel), getting those solutions suitable for further investigation and experimental work, i.e. 45 representing the shortlist innovative solution/innovations.

- A selection of potential dashboard (agronomic and environmental) indicators has been made, together with the selection of priority shortlist based on the proposed solutions' potential availability of information, agrotechnical expertise and scalability. The modelling of CNP flows and environmental emissions at the field and farm level were expanded into six different geoclimatic regions based on the environmental zones of Europe. Simulations of technologies have been set from the shortlist analyzing their environmental, economic and societal impacts.

- A literature analysis has being conducted on factors influencing the uptake of technologies and to identify indicators which can be used to analyze the transferability of the selected technologies to other regions and farm types. One technology (Precision farming coping with heterogeneous qualities of organic fertilizers in the whole chain) has already been implemented in the CAPRI model and first analyses were done. The feasibility for all measures from the priority list regarding the implementation into the CAPRI model has been investigated.

- A narrative literature review on farmers’ adoption studies has been conducted. A specific guide and a homogenized protocol adapted to the selected final list of innovation for the development of the focus groups has been prepared to carry out the proposed participatory focus groups and guide partner to follow a common approach in understanding farmers’ needs and expectation from the innovations. A report with results of meta-analysis and sustainability labelling has been developed. On the basis of the meta-analysis, a homogenized questionnaire has been designed to identify the purchase intention and consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for food products obtained from sustainable production systems.

- Demonstration trial and relevant capacity within the consortium were determined through a demonstration protocol template. A final selection and set up of 13 lighthouse demo solutions were made which are aimed to capture and compile evidence-based research outcomes of CNP loop closure. Moreover, demo engagement activities took place via open days and technical workshops as well as first and second year field trial for some selected demo solutions were completed.

- So far, 35 oral and 17 poster presentations were given at 35 different international conferences together with 13 SCI-E indexed publications in total. An exchange of knowledge with interested stakeholders has also continued through EIP-AGRI practice abstracts (PAs), which makes it 27 PAs in total. National Task Forces have been active mainly via online events to make sure the communication with the local stakeholders. In addition to these, two summer/winter schools were organized, joint PhDs have been set, a policy working group has been initiated, interactions with other EU projects and working groups have been maintained and all dissemination channels were actively used to spread the project outcomes.
Nutri2Cycle maps and describes a wide range of “on the ground” and “pilot “solutions potentially able to close the CNP loops. The selected and prioritized solutions have been further grouped into five different research lines as follows: 1) innovative management systems, tools & practices for optimized nutrient and GHG management in animal husbandry 2) innovative soil, fertilisation & crop management systems & practices for enhanced N,P efficiency and increased soil OC content 3) tools, techniques & systems for higher-precision fertilization 4) biobased fertilisers (N,P) and soil enhancers (OC) from agro-residues 5) novel animal feeds produced from agro-residues. The outcomes are being delivered in the form of relevant indicators of environmental, economic and social performance of a wide range of technologies/innovations for improving the nutrient cycling in European agricultural systems. This is being done from a whole lifecycle perspective, and further extended with CAPRI & MITERRA models with various innovative technologies enabling us to account for technological change in agriculture towards higher nutrient efficiency and reduced GHG emissions at regional, national and EU level. Stakeholders’ attitudes, opinions and perceptions are being investigated on the proposed sustainable technologies that deal with CNP reduction and recycling. The evidence based outcomes of CNP loop closure is being forwarded by documenting environmental, economic and agronomic experience of 13 lighthouse innovations demonstrated at relevant pilot/field/farm scale and/or operational scale to different stakeholders and OGs for practical judgment and feasibility to implement across the EU regions. By proposing effective solutions for CNP efficient agro-ecosystems, and thereby, improving overall sustainability and innovation capacity of the farming systems, Nutri2Cycle provides scientific support for redesigned farm business models with less environmental impact.
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