Soil is a limited resource and its health is critical for any sustainable development. Agricultural productivity may be low in areas where soils are poor due to their geological history (in content of organic matter or frequently affected by drought). Moreover, past and present anthropogenic activities have resulted in degradation and contamination of agricultural soils.
Given the large areas of degraded land, developing and implementing practices aimed at restoring its production potential would be a huge opportunity: a major contribution to increase the production of food, bioenergy and other ecosystem services from agricultural land. Yields from such areas would likely bring around 10 million tons of grains onto the market.
The objectives of INTENSE are to:
- Determine and harmonise methodologies for identifying and recovering degraded soils of specific degradation status.
- Develop and optimise novel cropping systems using precision agriculture and modelling tools capable of increasing productivity, soil life and functionality; and making use of specific amendments, to suppress pathogens and fertilise soils.
- Develop and implement suitable production systems for land amelioration in complex degradation situations.
- Develop and implement sustainable and financially attractive production alternatives for production on recovered farmland.
- The project core were field experiments. Fertility and productivity of soils were enhanced by various amendments (manure, biochar and compost pellets).
- Yield and growth characteristics were recorded by remote and proximal sensing. Data will be used in the final analysis to implement models. Soil organisms were analysed based on the functionality of microbial groups to unravel key processes responsible for soil fertility and resilience.
- Models are developed to show the economic impact of ecosystem services from farming by soils, with examples from Spain, Germany, Poland and Norway.
- Guidelines for the treatment of contaminated soils were developed and published. The beneficial influence of soil amendments for reducing contaminant exposure and/or promoting crop yield and plant performance was revealed. Increasing yield of 20% is possible.