Northern Europe and Baltic soils are under threat by the impacts of climate change, food and water (in)security despite their potential contributions to the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). The threats to soils derail the progress on SDG 2 which aims to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” and SDG 13 which seeks to encourage “urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.
AgroMixNorth offers springboards for drought-resistant and resilient cropping systems, that provide sufficient and nutritious food and income to farmers while simultaneously increasing below-ground carbon storage. These diversified cropping and soil carbon sequestration processes are optimized to promote soil biodiversity and nutrient cycling.
Climate extremes are projected to become more frequent and severe in Nordic and Baltic regions. In particular, spring droughts lead to a significant reduction in crop yields with negative economic consequences for farmers and society. Therefore, resilient production (eco)systems that deliver genuinely long-term sustainable cropping systems are required to secure crop productivity that will contribute to climate change mitigation.
The EU Common Agricultural Policy reform promotes a policy of sustainable intensification of agricultural land e.g., via crop diversification. Yet, little is known on the potential of diversified cropping systems and their influence on soil functioning (ie carbon sequestration potential, soil biodiversity, nutrient cycling) and food security. The aim of AgroMixNorth is to improve our understanding on the impact of crop diversification (both intra- and interspecific), soil functioning and food quality, and to evaluate potential synergies and trade-offs arising from specific agricultural management systems. Focus will be on systems that include an increase of the intraspecific diversity of cereal crops (eg. spring barley and oats) with and without intercropping of legumes or cover crops (e.g., clover, peas, faba beans).
The project is constructed around the central hypothesis that diversified cropping systems, due to their spatial and temporal niche complementary, are more climate-smart and resilient cropping systems compared with mono-culture systems.
- to foster a common network of interest focusing on the development of climate-smart and resilient agricultural management systems for Northern Europe
- have an impact on policy and framing policy discussions in light of new management tools available for future-proofing food supply and mitigating climate change, and
- improve the knowledge of the wider policy context with education and training opportunities for younger researchers and those connected to the agriculture industry.
Research outcomes from AgroMixNorth contribute to three key EU policies- A Soil Deal for Europe, EU Common Agricultural Policy and the European Green Deal which all aim to improve sustainability towards the attainment of climate neutrality by 2050. AgroMixNorth’s contributions are also complementary to EU soil projects including EJP SOIL and MaxRoot-C & MixRoot-C.
Expected Outcomes and Impact
Through strategic stakeholder engagement and targeted communications, the project contributes to increasing knowledge and adoption of new and innovative crop diversification strategies. The focus on intercropping and cover crop mixes will contribute to crop productivity, enhance net removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and can easily be implemented by farmers with cost-effective adjustments to current practices.
By adopting a multi-country approach AgroMixNorth brings together a range of complementary expertise that can foster scientific advances beyond national domains. The resulting scientific outputs will provide valuable knowledge on the advantages of crop diversification for regional EU policies while also future proofing the acceleration of global climate change and food security challenges.
Additionally, AgroMixNorth will provide an experimental toolbox to evaluate synergies and trade-offs between multi-functionality of agricultural management systems tied to primary production, climate regulation (including soil carbon sequestration), promoting soil biodiversity and optimizing nutrient cycling. The resulting experimental models adapted to Nordic and Baltic cropping contexts will be used for designing environmental monitoring and decision support tools towards improving the synergies between multiple ecosystem services.
AgroMixNorth includes 5 work packages.
WP1: Establishing a Research Alliance and Revisiting Field Experiments
WP2: Screening Intraspecific Diversity of Cereals
WP3: Multifunctionality of Agricultural Management Systems
WP4: Soil-Crop Modelling
WP5: Synthesis of Data and Outreach