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Experts discuss soil health at the second TUdi stakeholder workshop in Bulgaria

17 November 2022
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 The Bulgarian TUdi partners New Bulgarian University (NBU) hosted the second national workshop which was held in the Institute оf Soil Science, Agrotechnologies and Plant Protection "Nikola Poushkarov" in Sofia on 16 November 2022.

The meeting started with an open field workshop at an experimental site in Boujurishte, near Sofia, where the attendees were given a tour of the technology that is used for cultivating the soil. Participants experienced a walk around some of the fields in the experimental site, where they started a productive discussion on the best practices to improve soil health, the different types of soil fertilisation, the best ways to combat weeds and more. 

“The future of farming lies in more organic and less chemical soil cultivation. We have the necessary technology, so the main thing that has to change is the farmers’ perception of organic practices. Many of them don’t believe in organic fertilisation but if they don’t change their mindset now, they will be caught unawares 2030” said one of the agricultural experts.

After the constructive discussion, the participants headed to the Institute of Soil Science, Agrotechnologies and Plant Protection "Nikola Poushkarov'' where NBU presented some of the results from their research in the scope of WP4. Dr. Krassimir Kostenarov presented a cluster analysis of the farm typologies that were identified through a questionnaire in which 416 farmers from 6 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Spain) participated. The analysis showed that there are four different farm typologies - large intensive farms, small pasture farms, diverse grain farms and small fruit farms. The results from the questionnaire also showed the level of knowledge that farmers have on soil restoration practices and which they apply to their own farms. The presentation inspired a useful discussion on the methods used to classify the farm typologies and the amount of knowledge of soil restoration that is available to farmers.

After that, Dr. Ekatherina Tsvetanova presented the four business models used by farmers based on the results from the same questionnaire. - medium/large farms that use sustainable fertilision, small/medium grain farms, small diverse farms and value driven tree farms. 

The last presentation provided a sneak peek into the preliminary version of TUdi’s socioeconomic soil restoring supporting toolkit (SEST) co-developed by NBU and Pensoft Publishers. SEST will be a digital hub of knowledge allowing different stakeholders to navigate methods and mechanisms for soil restoring strategies with information on their cost and economic impact at two levels: farm and policy makers. This will help farmers implement different soil restoring strategies or improved fertilisation practices and assist governments in the decision making process on policies. The supporting toolkit will be fully operational by 2024 and will hopefully be an instrumental part in the soil restoration practices that farmers use. 

The event was attended by 20 participants from the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture, the Troyan Research Institute of Mountain Stockbreeding and Agriculture, the National Agricultural Advisory Service, the Plovdiv Fruit Growing Institute, the Agro-ecological farmers’ association, Hisarya local initiative group, the Institute Of Soil Science, Agrotechnologies and Plant Protection, NBU and farmers from different parts of the country.