The EU-funded project TUdi organised seven national workshops across Europe to involve farmers and landowners in strategic decision making for soil health improvement.
A participatory approach allows farmers to make decisions on soil restoration strategies and techniques, based on their first-hand experience. The first round of workshops took place between July 2021 and March 2022. To share the results from the national workshops including the feedback from TUdi stakeholders, the next workshop will be on an international level in Turin in July 2022, with participation of stakeholders from all partner countries. Before these strategies are further developed to decision support tools, including digital applications, they have to be approved by the practicing farmers.
The workshops revealed the agricultural system-specific needs of farmers. This ranged from toolboxes to indicate the level of degradation directly on the field site (Czech Republic) to nutrient management plans for several farm types (Italy). Several national TUdi networks surveyed the stakeholders’ needs and already reached a set of (digital) Decision Support Tools (Hungary), including consideration of economic aspects (Bulgaria). The first workshops also targeted on finding the most effective way to communicate with farmers and stakeholders (Spain) and on obtaining expertise from specialized agriculture and environment consultants (United Kingdom). Hence, farmers and other stakeholders gave valuable input to develop strategies and tools that are needed as decision support in agricultural practice.
The workshops also showed that the joint development of soil restoring systems by farmers and scientists is the most promising approach. It motivates all stakeholders, as described by an Austrian farmer: “I think we should address these issues very actively and come up with solutions. […] At the same time, everything we do there is one big win-win situation.” Thus, the workshops were a good start for a successful cooperation.
Transforming Unsustainable management of soils in key agricultural systems in EU and China Developing an integrated platform of alternatives to reverse soil degradation (TUdi) is a Horizon 2020 project (grant agreement No 101000224) that aims to develop, upscale and popularise soil healing strategies in three major agricultural systems and farm typologies across Europe, China and New Zealand.
The project will develop healthy and productive agricultural ecosystems, which are among the most challenging UN development goals for 2030, including zero hunger, no poverty, climate action and life on land. In order to do this, TUdi relies on 15 research institutions and SMEs from all over the world, as well as a network of 42 cooperating stakeholder organisations and 66 long-term experiments and monitored farms in the participating countries.
TUdi is conceived as a transformative cooperative project which aims to develop, upscale and popularise soil healing strategies in three major agricultural systems and farm typologies across Europe, China and New Zealand. To do this, TUdi relies on 15 research institutions and SMEs from all over the world, as well as a network of 42 cooperating stakeholder organisations and 66 long-term experiments and monitored farms in the participating countries.
Aimed to lead the way in improving soil health across EU, China and New Zealand, TUdi will develop healthy and productive agricultural ecosystems, which are among the most challenging UN development goals for 2030, including zero hunger, no poverty, climate action and life on land.
“Achieving global and regional food security and soil based ecosystem services depends on our ability to use the best science and experience,” comments project Coordinator José A. Gómez of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain. ”In this way, we will drive widespread adoption of technologies to reverse degradation of agricultural soils and increase soil quality for food production, without damaging the wider environment.” The project is co-coordinated by Xiaoping Zhang of Northwest A&F University (NWAFU), China.
Although monitoring the degradation of soil quality has progressed, less has been achieved to reverse soil degradation. About two billion people and 1.9 billion hectares of land are affected by land degradation globally, with an estimated cost to the global economy between $18-20 trillion USD annually. The European Commission estimates that current management practices result in approximately 60-70% of EU soils being unhealthy, with a further uncertain percentage of unhealthy soils due to poorly quantified pollution issues.
Multiple comprehensive EU and Chinese initiatives recognise the challenge of increasing agricultural production to supply the growing demands for healthy and sustainable food, while at the same time conserving their soil resource base.
Against this background, the TUdi project plans four coherent steps:
- Engaging and cooperating with multiple stakeholders to identify and understand their needs and possibilities for strategies to cope with soil degradation
- Developing a set of farming planning tools to facilitate implementation of fertilization and strategies for soil degradation control and soil restoration at farm scale
- Providing different types of stakeholders with a thorough understanding of the impact of these soil restoring strategies
- Scaling up the adoption of sustainable use of soils in a large number of multiple farms
To mark the start of the TUdi project, its kick-off meeting was held on 22 and 23 July 2021 in an online environment. Despite the time difference, 35 people from 15 organisations across 2 continents and 2 islands attended. China, Hungary, Spain, Bulgaria, Czechia, Austria, New Zealand, the UK and Italy join forces in this four-year transcontinental research endeavour.