European crop production is facing a growing challenge to remain competitive, while at the same time reducing negative environmental impacts. Currently, production levels in some cropping systems are maintained by increased inputs, such as fertiliser and pesticides, and more advanced technology, which masks losses in productivity due to reduced soil quality. Such increased use of agricultural inputs may reduce profitability due to their costs, while also negatively affecting the environment.

The quality of agricultural land is also threatened by human action, leading to, often subtle and gradual, physical, chemical and biological degradation of the soil. This includes soil threats such as erosion, compaction, salinization, soil pollution, loss of organic matter and loss of soil biodiversity. Soil improvement is necessary to break the negative spiral of degradation, increased inputs, increased costs and damage to the environment.

In order to identify and evaluate promising soil-improving crop systems and agronomic techniques that will increase the profitability and sustainability of agriculture across Europe, the EU has funded research under its Horizon 2020 programme for a project called SoilCare (SoilCare for profitable and sustainable crop production in Europe).

The funding of £287,400 was secured in December 2015 and the CCRI is one of 28 collaborating partners, led by Wageningen University Research, The Netherlands. The project started on 1st March 2016 and will end on 31th August 2021.

The CCRI is the Work Package Leader for Dissemination and Communication in the project with the aim of ensuring effective knowledge exchange, raising awareness of soil related issues and ensuring that findings and practices from the project are disseminated and communicated widely and integrated into existing agricultural and advisory systems.

Jane Mills, Dr Julie Ingram, Jasmine Black and Charlotte Chivers are working on the project and their work focuses particularly on ensuring effective knowledge exchange between the project and farmers from the 16 study sites and ensuring effective knowledge exchange between the project and farmers. The final conference for the project takes place in June 2021.

Both Jane and Julie have also been previously worked on other EU soil related projects – RECARE and Smartsoil.

Useful links

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme for research and innovation grant agreement no 633814.