Universities across Europe are to take part in a €10m project to transform farming.
Recent policies of agriculture based on intense mechanisation, the excessive use of external inputs –water, energy, fertilisers and pesticides – and mono-crop farming has resulted in soil degradation, reduced biodiversity and increased economic risk for European farmers.
To increase diversification and biodiversity, and to foster the sustainable development of the bioeconomy, the European-wide consortium is aiming to develop and deploy innovative farming and agribusiness models.
The University of Portsmouth, UK, is taking part in the project and has been awarded ~€240,000 under the Horizon 2020 programme as part of a €10m five-year project to increase the long-term resilience, sustainability and economic revenues of agriculture across the EU.
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth, UK, will develop mathematical models to explore how diversified cropping systems, tested in field experiments and case studies, influence soil-water-atmosphere-plant systems from farm to landscape level, for each of the regions included in the project.
The results aim to help develop a simple decision support tool to select the most appropriate cropping systems and agricultural practices to improve farm productivity and sustainability. It will also provide guidelines for the most efficient uses of resources across the many sectors involved in the bioeconomy.
Dr Marianna Cerasuolo, senior lecturer in the department of mathematics at the University of Portsmouth, said: “In view of the socioeconomic and environmental problems arising from mono-cropping and high-input systems, there is now a growing emphasis on crop diversification and optimised use of resources.
“Increases in land productivity by crop diversification with decreases in production, and environmental costs with adaptation of the entire value chain, could contribute to the growth of the European agrarian sector.”