Hilly and mountainous areas of central Italy are characterised by soil degradation linked to intensification of agriculture on the most productive land and the abandonment of land that has deteriorated. The main causes are: neglect of soil protection practices, such as proper drainage of surface water, which have disappeared as they are too costly for modern farms; and increasing abandonment of land by farmers because soil deterioration has driven productivity too low, making the farms economically unviable. The loss of soil organic carbon is an important indicator of soil degradation.
Since 2014, the EU has included Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) activities in its climate and energy framework, with the target of reducing GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 40% come 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Implementation of this policy at territorial level, based on national budgets for emissions and absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, requires sources of reliable data. To provide this, development of tools for accounting and monitoring GHG input/output at farming system-scale is crucial.
The LIFE agriCOlture projects aim is to introduce certain actions and sustainable soil management techniques in agro-environmental systems, demonstrating their effectiveness in protecting soil organic carbon in mountainous areas of the Emilian Apennines, which are prone to soil degradation. In particular, the project will apply and test: i) protocols for applying best practices indicated by scientific research as useful for protecting soil organic carbon; ii) instruments (organisational and governance models) for sustainable management of soil resources. The objective is to stimulate their adoption in other European areas and foster their application.
LIFE agriCOlture will contribute to the EUs soil thematic strategy (COM(2006)231), in particular on conservation of soil functions, as well as Regulation (EU) 2018/841 on the inclusion of GHG emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry in the 2030 climate and energy framework. In particular, the project will contribute to the latter thanks to the development of specific monitoring tools for GHG emissions and removals from land use and land use change. In addition, the project is expected to contribute to the international initiative "4 per 1000", launched on 1 December 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21. The aim of this initiative is to invite partners to implement best practices to enhance soil carbon storage in agriculture.