AI4Soilhealth will harness the relationships from existing projects and programmes to bring together a diverse range of stakeholders ‘on-the-ground’ across 11 countries covering 11 of the 13 pedo-climatic regions in Europe.
The pilot sites cover:
– 11 pedo-climatic regions
– Multi-actor stakeholders and engagement; Universities, researchers, SMEs / NGOs, farmers and growers, land owners, foresters etc
– Existing and new data sets to test AI4SoilHealth predictions, varied soil health themes
– Access to pre-existing national datasets, including LUCAS sampling sites
– Existing networks; soil managers, soil user communities for co-design AI4SoilHealth tools
– Data collection resources and access to laboratories for analysis”
Spain – Pilot activity in Spain will take place in the experimental pastures of Neiker in the province of Alava. Mean annual temperature and total precipitation in this area are 12 ºC (mean maximum of 17.9 ºC and mean minimum of 6.4 ºC) and 855 mm, respectively. In a completely randomized block design, a regenerative rotational dairy sheep grazing management system has been implemented since 2013, in comparison to a conventional grazing system. During these years, a large amount of data on grass production and soil physicochemical and biological parameters has been collected. For example, it has been found that rotational grazing shows significantly higher springtime grass production (30%) and topsoil carbon storage (3.6%) than conventional grazing. Owing to these benefits, in recent years professional farmers are applying the same methodologies. Neiker is now monitoring the soils of at least three of these farms using simple measurements (Soil Health Cards).
Netherlands – Boermarke-Zeijen is a 350-year-old farmers collective with 11 members and approximately 1200 hectares of land, including 1000 hectares of cultivated land and 200 hectares of forest land. The farmers are developing economically and ecologically sustainable farming practices to strengthen soil fertility and biodiversity at company and regional scale. The farmers strive for better prices for their products, including compensation for green-blue ecological services through new or improved revenue schemes. In time, this approach will lead to nature-inclusive farming. Soil health is an important aspect in this initiative and there is a clear need for better quantification of soil health. The AI4SoilHealth project selected Boermarke-Zeijen as a typical end user of soil health indicators. The soils are sandy with peat patches representing the soils of the Netherlands
Coordinator: : Boermake-Zeijen
Greece – Activity will focus on evaluating the impact of land degradation on soil health and soil carbon sequestration potential, in Central Macedonia. The Greek pilot aims at supporting the development of evidence-based conservation recommendations for policies and sustainable services for relevant economic operators (modern winery – selected hectares depending on soil variability and microclimatic conditions and agricultural cluster of orchards – 10 hectares). The selected test beds have been prioritized to allow the evaluation of diverse crop management options (i.e., organic vs conventional), considering the main crop and soil types of the region’s (e.g., Cambisols and Luvisols). Historic soil data have also preserved and curated in dedicated repositories as results from previous activities, such as ESA WORLDSOILS and H2020 DIONE. It should be noted that, the Region of Central Macedonia aims to create modern competitive farms based on new international data, towards the production of high-quality products that meet consumer demands, as reflected in it’s Regional Innovation Strategy. Furthermore, AI4SoilHealth will leverage the involvement of “super-connectors” such as the Region of Central Macedonia, IBEC, and AG-CLUSTER for the respective communities to test out ideas and technologies for soil ecosystem.
Coordinator: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
United Kingdom – There are two pilot sites in the UK: mid-Wales (livestock and forestry) and East of England (arable and field scale horticulture) covering four major soil types. Access to long-term detailed data and modelling for the mid Wales Plynlimon environmental observatories (20km2) plus ERAMMP monitoring data.
Coordinator: UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
France- INRAE’s long-term research site (22 ha, since 2010) on arable cropping systems (8 treatments, n = 4) provides high depth resolution soil carbon data up to 60 cm depth, additional to extensive vegetation and water quality data. Continuous N20 and CO2 data are available for a selection of treatments. The soil is a Luvisol Orthique (FAO classification) or a Typic Hapludalf (USDA classification). Soil texture is characterized by 16.8% clay, 76.3% silt and 3.8% sand with a mean pH (soil H2O) of 7.8 in the top soil and an average soil C content of 8.7 g C kg-1. Field assistance and scientific expertise is available.
Croatia – The Neretva River Valley (NRV) is located on the southern Adriatic coast of Croatia (43°00 N, 17°30 E). It is an intensely cultivate floodplain delta whose extension has been restricted to 12,000 ha thanks to the activities of numerous land-reclamation projects. The most specific feature of the terrain comprises the lower-laying parcels of predominantly polder-type land, formed in the past by intensive land reclamation and hydro-amelioration. The functionality of the polder-type land system is preserved by the network of pumping stations, which prevents the area from flooding. Due to the high risk of soil salinization and the reduction of crop yields by saline water irrigation and nutrient leaching from the agricultural fields, a soil and water quality monitoring network was established. The soils are dominantly fluvisols and glaysols.
Coordinator: University of Zagreb
Finland – This pilot includes LUKE’s existing long-term field experiments since the 1990s located in the main agricultural production region in South-West Finland. Long-term field trials have consisted of both conventional and organic farming since the 1990s. One field site is dedicated to study the effect of cultivation practices on nutrient losses. The Pilots are on clay soils as most of the importat agricultural soils in Finland and Sweden
Coordinator: Luke – Natural resources Institue Finland
Sweden – At Lönnstorp’s research station, the particular focus is on design, sustainable development and evaluation of cultivation systems in agriculture, both in conventional and organic cultivation. The land belonging to the station consists of a conventionally cultivated area (60 ha) and a smaller area (18 ha) which was converted to certified organic cultivation in 1993. The research station was established in 1969 and is open to researchers in ecology, agronomy, environmental science, agroecology, soil science etc. At Lönnstorp, there are a large number of ongoing projects, several of which are long-term. The Swedish Infrastructure for Ecosystem Science (SITES) Agroecological Field Experiment (SAFE) is a new facility for research into future cropping systems, which was established in 2015-2016. The facility is available for many types of research questions in, for example, plant and soil ecology, biogeochemistry and agroecology, and it is possible to conduct experiments within the facility. The soil is about 15% clay and 3% organic matter. Dominant crop rotation on the 60 ha large conventional area is winter wheat, sugar beet, spring barley and autumn rapeseed. On the 18 ha organic area, the dominant crop rotation is spring barley sown with grass-alfalfa hedge, grass-alfalfa hedge, fall rapeseed, winter wheat sown with grass-alfalfa hedge, grass-alfalfa hedge, beans intercropped with barley.
Coordinator: Stockholm University
Denmark – There are two pilots in Denmark; An existing national soil monitoring network including a 7-km grid covering Danish agriculture, the monitoring grid covers all Danish soil types dominated by alfisols and spodosols. An existing peat monitoring network covering all peat types in Denmark
Coordinator: Aarhus University
Italy – The experimental sites will be selected based on brainstorming with other project members and the JRC. They will be medium-sized regions (e.g., Lombardy, Andalucia or Catalonia) rather than field sites. Pilot site will investigate a dynamic soil erosion modeling approach that will combine Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS), Copernicus and LUCAS data to compute an enhanced cover and management factor (C) for the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE) at monthly and event base timescales.
Coordinator: Universita Degli Studi Roma Tre