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Transition towards a more carbon and nutrient efficient agriculture in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Nutri2Cycle (Transition towards a more carbon and nutrient efficient agriculture in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

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 N, P and C 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 wants to serve as a catalyst to greatly increase the market uptake and geographic replication of agronomic success stories that lead to more efficient nutrient loops. To achieve this 4 distinct steps have been distinguished :
I. Identifying innovative solutions
II. Innovation funnel: research in action to assess the solutions
III. Light-house demo’s: advancing the TRL level by leading examples
IV. Advanced loop closure throughout Europe

In the 1st period the following was achieved:
I. A longlist of 76 end user driven potential solutions was collected through a collaboration between the EIP operational groups, stakeholders interactions, pre-selected cases and research insights from experts in the consortium. This longlist represents promising research innovations at TRL level 4-5, pilot-cases at front running farms and currently only locally available market-ready techniques (TRL 7-9). Using a questionnaire relevant information was gathered and summarized in fact sheets which will be available on the Nutri2Cycle website (deliverable D2.1)

II. The longlisted solutions have been further evaluated and scrutinized, based on their potential to close N, C and P loops and their technological, environmental & economical validity, to a shortlist of 24 overarching solutions (D.2.2) which are being further investigated by in depth agro-technical research. The first results on some of the technologies can be found in the 11 practice abstracts that were submitted to EIP-AGRI, with ongoing results being prepared for several publications.

For a solution to become adopted it needs to perform better compared to the current situation (“baseline”) with respect to CNP loop closure. An important aspect was therefore to comprehensively assess CNP flows and losses, their stoichiometry and their drivers in main EU farming systems during the last few decades (D1.2 D1.3 D 1.4 D1.5 & D1.6). As such 6 baseline scenario’s covering dairy, pig, and crop production typologies in different regions of Europe (N Europe, W Europe, S Europe) were determined and their CNP flows and environmental emissions at the field and farm level were modelled.

In addition to agro-technical research, promising innovations are being assessed in terms of environmental, economic & social performance. A preliminary set of easy to understand potential dashboards indicators are being assembled. The aim of these indicators is to have a set of parameters & performance criteria that are easy to use by and communicate with a professional yet non-scientific audience (D1.1) both from agronomic and environmental perspective.

Life Cycle Analysis was initiated and a list of 10 different solutions has been prioritised for subsequent LCA analysis, which is now being undertaken by different partners. Finally, the cost-benefit analysis of shortlisted technologies/innovations has been initiated.

III. The best performing optimizations at farm scale will be put in action by demonstration/validation. To identify the demo capacity, a demo protocol template was developed and circulated. As such a preliminary list of potential demo solutions including demo protocol and its associated partners that could grow into light house demo’s following evaluation is available.

IV. To facilitate the deployment of the most promising solutions, micro-economic impact at farm as determined in the previous steps will ultimately need to be translated to macro-economic impact at the regional, national and international level. At this stage in the project mainly preparatory work has been performed for this, predominantly by further fine tuning the CAPRI model (f. e by including diet shift scenario’s). In addition, a test round was performed by implementing one solution from the shortlist of measures: “precision farming coping with heterogeneous qualities of organic fertilizers in the whole chain”.

Finally, Nutri2Cycle has actively disseminated the outcomes using the visual identity that was created. A brochure, website, banner and social media content are available. Partners attended 15 international conferences. A research and training network was initiated by organizing a 1st int. summer school and the start of 4 joint PhDs. To percolate results to the end users and receive reflections throughout the projects from the stakeholders National Task forces were set up. Furthermore, interactions were made with other H2020 projects and EU working groups, platforms and other consultation workshops and bilateral meetings with representatives from EU institutions. For example at the 1st European Sustainable Nutrient Initiative, which was co-organized by Nutri2Cycle, we were glad to welcome EU representatives from DG-RTD, DG-ENVI and DG-AGRI as invited speakers.
The Nutri2Cycle project recognizes Europe’s need to tackle the current nutrient flow gaps in European agro-ecosystems in order to decrease environmental pollution, safeguard the quality of life and improve EU independence for energy and nutrients. A better understanding of the CNP stoichiometry, i.e. the ratios between C, N and P, in plants, animal products, manure and soils offers the opportunity to reduce the leakiness of farming systems. A first of a kind integrated CNP data analysis for 6 baseline scenario’s was created which is highly relevant for policy makers, and provides a baseline for other studies and policies beyond Nutri2Cycle. Moreover, Nutri2Cycle has actively identified and now investigates a wide range of practical & applicable on-farm solutions for closing C, N and P loops and better use of renewable resources. Solutions are being prioritized and further scrutinized for environmental, economic and social performance. Priority solutions will be upscaled and widely demonstrated, resulting in an increase in overall TRL and faster market adoption.