Soils in arid and semi-arid areas, such as parts of Spain, Italy and other southern European countries, are subject to intense degradation. The loss of organic matter reduces biological activity and fertility. This leads to soil erosion in farming areas, marginalisation and abandonment of agricultural land, and soil sealing.
Pig and poultry farms have a negative impact on air quality and can be a source ofunpleasant odours. Emissions to air are the result of livestock rearing, manure storage and muckspreading. Poultry manure is often produced in restricted areas where poultry farming is concentrated, leading to nutrient redundancy, and thus contributing to regional pollution of soil and water. When applied in excess, manure causes an over-supply of nutrients, which may have negative effects on water bodies.
LIFE POREM would address both issues by showing how treated poultry manure can restore the organic matter content of soils on semi-arid and over-exploited land. This would involve creating experimental plots in Murcia (Spain), Apulia (Italy) and the Czech Republic. To guarantee transferability and replicability of its soil restoration methods, the project would provide tools for identifying and implementing best available techniques and accompanying technical training. It would also provide public administrations that are responsible for soil with tools to assess soil restoration policies and agricultural management strategies. By involving all relevant stakeholders, the impact of manure on water bodies would be integrated into social, environmental and economic planning.
This project, if it manages to efficiently recycle nutrients as planned, will be an example of industrial symbiosis and will contribute to the implementation of the EU's circular economy action plan.
The LIFE POREM project demonstrated how poultry manure, when properly bio-activated, can restore the organic matter content of soils on semi-arid and over-exploited land. An innovative treatment, based on a blend of plant substances with enzymatic activity, was applied to obtain, from poultry manure, an organic fertiliser ("bio-activator") with reduced odour impact, reduced salinity, and satisfactory phosphorus content.
Experimental trials were carried out in diverse agro-ecosystems in Italy, Spain and Czechia, to test the effectiveness of the bio-activator on improving overall soil fertility and plant development. In particular, the following results were achieved:
Characteristics of the bio-activator:
- Ammonia (NH3) emission reduction by 86%, during the maturation of poultry manure
- Low salinity (3-5 dS/m).
Effect of the bio-activator on soil properties and nutrient content with respect to conventional farming practices:
- Net increase of soil organic matter: 34%
- Net increase of total nitrogen: 92%
- Net increase of total phosphorus: 686%
- Increase of soil biodiversity: 95% total bacteria; 215% total fungi
- Increase of soil water-holding capacity (as a proxy of water saving): 22.4%.
Effect of the bio-activator on economic and environmental aspects with respect to conventional farming practices:
- Reduction of use of synthetic mineral fertilisers: 38%
- Crop yield increase: 69%
- Capacity to restore autochthonous vegetation in highly degraded soils: +40%.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).