Agriculture is suffering the consequences of climate change, with crop yields declining during prolonged droughts. Sandy soils are particularly vulnerable. The agricultural sector faces a challenge in making sandy soils, along with their farming systems, resilient to the effects of climate change.
In line with the Netherlands’ National Climate Agreement, the country’s agricultural sector aims to sequester an additional half a million tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2-eq) per year by 2030, through increasing soil organic matter and decreasing nitrous oxide emissions on farmland.It is estimated that annually 1 million tons of fertile clayey and loamy soil, generated at Dutch public works installations, is disposed of as if it were waste. This is excellent soil for increasing the resilience of sandy farmland. In addition, Australian research has revealed that, over a 29-year time span, sandy soils enriched with clay and loam sequestered on average almost 2 tons of CO2-eq/year more than sandy soils without such enrichment.
The LIFE CO2SAND project’s goal is to demonstrate the effectiveness of increasing the resilience and carbon sink capacity of sandy farmland by enriching it with clayey and loamy soil. The idea is to recover this soil from waste generated at Dutch public works installations and apply it on farmland to increase the carbon sequestration capacity of sandy soil.
This approach will be demonstrated on 5 fields of 10 ha each on average, spread over the province of Gelderland. Almost 30,000 m3 of clayey soil released from public works installations will be used to upgrade sandy soils in these fields, to improve their water retention, water availability and carbon sequestration capacity. By increasing the infiltration and water retention capacity of sandy soils on agricultural land, the project aims to enhance the resilience of farmers to the effects of climate change.LIFE CO2SAND will contribute to both a climate-resilient and a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy. It supports implementation of the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality and adaptation objectives, as well as the European Green Deal’s climate and related policies and measures, including the European Climate Pact. The project will contribute to mitigation objectives, by increasing the capacity of sandy soils to function as carbon sinks. This matches the EU’s policy focus on land use, agriculture and forestry, and its focus on conservation and enhancement of natural carbon sinks.
- Almost 30 000 m3 of clayey soil spread on 5 fields which have sandy soils, covering 50 ha in total, improving the water retention, water availability and carbon sequestration capacity;
- Greater resilience to the effects of climate change on 50 ha, due to the increased water retention capacity and the amount of water stored in the soil that can be used by plants (reducing the need for crop irrigation and water abstraction during drought periods);
- Increased carbon sequestration into soil organic matter, reaching close to 100 tons of CO2-eq per ha per year over 50 ha for the decades to come; and
- Yearly increase in the area of adapted sandy soils, with replication on 70 farms covering 700 ha during the project’s time span. Continued use of the LIFE CO2SAND approach by farmers and governments in the Netherlands after the project’s end, reaching a replication rate of 2 000 ha per year.