Jueves, 16 Mayo 2019 09:37

LIFE + CLIMAGRI. Adapting Agriculture to Fight Climate Change

Researchers from the project Life Climagri in their case study placed in Finca Rabanales from University of Córdoba Researchers from the project Life Climagri in their case study placed in Finca Rabanales from University of Córdoba

The LIFE + ClimAgri project promotes a set of sound agricultural practices to mitigate and adapt to the effects of global warming

The fact that Agriculture is the fourth biggest producer of greenhouse gases in the European Union, accounting for 9.9% of the total (European Environment Agency, 2011), and is drastically affected by climate change, makes this activity a primary culprit when it comes to excess CO2 in the atmosphere. However, a positive aspect of Agriculture is that the employment of sound agricultural practices makes it possible to reduce its concentration of greenhouse gases and the emissions that it releases into the atmosphere. In addition, carbon can also be sequestered in soil, increasing its organic matter, mitigating climate change, and bolstering the sustainability of the sector.

The 'LIFE + ClimAgri-Best agricultural practices for Climate Change: Integrating strategies for mitigation and adaptation' project takes a holistic approach to the challenge of climatic change in the agrarian sector, with a particular focus on irrigated lands the Mediterranean Basin, calling for the joint use of mitigation and adaptation practices. It also offers solutions to alleviate the serious erosion suffered by agricultural soils, a phenomenon directly related to low SOM (Soil Organic Matter) content, through techniques that also address the need to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

The linchpin of the LIFE + ClimAgri project is Conservation Agriculture. The shift from traditional, shallow tillage based on animal traction, in which organic matter was incorporated into the soil, to intensive tillage, using tractors, together with a climate characterised by scarce but intense rains, have led to a situation in which soils erode very easily giving, rise to settings like the Andalusian countryside, traversed by deep gullies. Before this type of scenario, farmers sees their economic stability threatened, and serious environmental problems owing to the degradation of agricultural soils are generated.

Searching for solutions to turn this situation around is a research group at the University of Cordoba: 'AGR 126-Mechanization and Rural Technology', headed up at the UCO by researchers Jesus A. Gil Ribes, Gregorio Blanco Roldán and Francisco Márquez García, within the LIFE+ClimAgri project, which is being coordinated by the Spanish Soil Conservation Agriculture Association.

For four years they have experimented in the field with sustainable Conservation Agriculture practices, together with precision techniques, on irrigated crops at a network of 12 farms in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, of particular note being an experimental farm at the Campus of Rabanales, where corn and cotton have been grown.

Through a combination of techniques based on the utilisation of stover, which protects and nourishes the soil of extensive crops, crop rotation, and avoiding tillage by opting for direct seeding, it was confirmed how these strategies help to avoid soil erosion and to avert climate change by increasing fields' organic matter content. This, together with the reduction of consumables made possible thanks to reduced tillage and tractor emissions, and a more efficient use of supplies through Precision Agriculture techniques, leads to a drop in costs and yields a more sustainable system, both economically and environmentally. More fertile soils are able to produce efficiently, benefitting from optimised supply consumption, thereby bolstering their profitability.

This more energy-efficient system helps to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, striking a balance between what is emitted and what is sequestered, thereby lowering Agriculture's position on the ranking of greenhouse gas emitters.

The social and political impact of this project results in the incorporation of its good agricultural practices into the guidelines of the European Union's new Common Agricultural Policy. After the end of the project, the European Commission chose ClimAgri as one of the five key projects to design European agricultural measures related to the fight against climate change.

If the results and conclusions reached by LIFE + ClimAgri were implemented, farmers would be more economically secure, soils would be more fertile, and the sector would have a minimal impact on the environment. Other outcomes would include a shift in mentality, generational change, and the anchoring of populations to rural areas threatened by depopulation, as agricultural activity would represent a more innovative and profitable activity.

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