Sustainable food security - SIEUSOIL




Full Title: SIno-EU Soil Observatory for Intelligent Land use Management

The project is a collaborative project between the EU and China, under Horizon2020 call H2020-SFS-2018-2020. It consists of 23 partners, out of which 16 partners from the EU and 7 partners from China. The project is coordinated by Prof. Dimitrios Moshou from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. The project scientific coordinator is Prof. Abdul Mouazen from Ghent University in Belgium. This is a three-year long project starting 1st June 2019, and ending 31 May, 2022.


The decrease of agricultural land areas due to industrial pollution and intensive agriculture is a big problem in both EU and China. Moreover, climate models project an increase not only in drought events but also in heavy rain events (IPCC, 2013) that can enhance water runoff, soil erosion and flooding. Soil erosion can cause loss of soil and nutrients, increasing leaching and pollution problems. Pollution and soil organic matter (SOM) loss due to land degradation and pollution can negatively affect soil aggregate stability and water holding capacity causing the soil to become less resilient to further soil structure decline. In this respect, soil management can play an important role in minimising the negative influences of land degradation.
Land degradation in Europe has been increasingly recognised as a serious environmental problem. Various studies commissioned by the European Commission have assessed the extent and degree of soil degradation across Europe and concluded that six major threats place soil quality at risk. Namely, soil erosion, loss of SOM, soil biodiversity, soil compaction, soil salinity, soil sealing and soil pollution. These threats have adverse effects on soil functions and ecosystem services, which may lead to desertification and overall soil degradation (Tóth et al., 2008). An assessment framework for understanding the pressures on soils and taking steps to safeguard them is required.
In China, the population grew from 1.06 billion in 1985, to 1.37 in 2015, and is estimated to reach 1.42 billion in 2030. Total grain output increased in the past decades from 304.8 billion kg (1978) to 607.1 billion kg (2014). Agricultural activities accounted for 63.5% of total water withdrawals in China in 2014 (Wu et al., 2017). With quick urbanization across the whole country in the past 30 years and the implementation of “Grain for Green” (returning farmland to forest/steppe) program in Western China in the past 15 years, the total of arable land has decreased from 1.30 million km2 in 1996 to 1.22 million km2 in 2009. The average arable land per capita in China is just 40% of that in the world (Zhou, 2015). Intensive agriculture and the high input of fertilizer and pesticides in China have resulted in a decline of land quality during the past decades. Soil degradation exists widely in China and this includes soil erosion, land impoverishment, soil salinization and soil acidification. In this regard, it is urgent to join forces to preserve soil and land quality to support better food security and ecosystem services.
Common land degradation problems in EU and China need efficient solutions that aim to: 1) protect soil against erosion, compaction, nutrients leaching and organic matter decline; 2) reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphate in groundwater and surface water bodies; 3) increase SOM content (including carbon) for improved soil structure, aggregate stability and hydrological properties; 4) guarantee high yield production by mitigating effects of climate change on crop productivity; 6) guarantee high quality and quantity of yield production; and, 7) upscale knowledge obtained from the local (farm) level into regional, national and international levels. The achievement of these goals should be related to the potential productivity of lands including both the prime agriculture and problem lands. Therefore, harmonizing land information between EU and China has to be based on a common set of soil and land characteristics that relate to the productivity level. These indicators will be fed into the soil management platform proposed by SIEUSOIL.
SIEUSOIL will design, implement and test a shared China-EU Web Observatory platform that will provide Linked (Open) Data to monitor status and threats of soil and land resources, thereby supporting decision making for sustainable and climate-resilient agro-ecosystems and sustainable land management. The Observatory platform will support effective management of soil at field level through customizable modules, and will highlight good practices of soil management across EU and China. The final target will be to support sustainable soil management, increase land and water productivity sustainably, reduce crop yield variability across time and space, and support the policy formulation process. Innovative practices and tools will be tested in SIEUSOIL and their impact will be assessed for improved carbon sequestration, soil fertility and land productivity



These are the objectives of SIEUSOIL:
Objective 1 – Establish a harmonised Eurasian soil and land geo-database highlighting soil and land quality indicators in a common China-EU Web Observatory platform.
Objective 2 – Analyse how land use and landscape management influence soil quality (including carbon and nutrient content) and ground water, and develop a common definition of prime and problem soils and lands
Objective 3 – Analyse promising soil and land management methods, both conventional and innovative technologies
Objective 4 – Develop an evaluation framework for assessing current soil and land quality, and establish current limiting factors to optimal land quality and productivity, including heavy metal contamination
Objective 5 – Implement precision agriculture technologies and approaches for increasing soil productivity at reduced input and environmental footprints
Objective 6 – Evaluate factors describing the weight of each soil quality indicator for land suitability (i.e., crop growth, meteorology, landscape, soil, water), now and for future climate change scenarios
Objective 7 - Develop an open platform for integration of soil management practices in a decision support system (DSS)
Objective 8 – Establish application pilots to evaluate developed methods across different Eurasian environments
Objective 9 – Analyse the impacts of the proposed scenarios for managing soils towards sustainable intensification in terms of agro-ecosystem services delivery, socio-economic benefits & adoption by policy makers. Land use change aspects will be an integrated part of the environmental assessment by life cycle analysis (LCA)
Objective 10 – Establish a dissemination network and organise related activities

Role of Ghent University

UGENT will implement different proximal soil sensing techniques to measure key soil properties and contaminants. The UGENT team will lead the work on variable rate fertilization and tillage. The project will allow the team to demonstrate the in house produced international patented on-line soil sensor platform to measure key soil properties at different European countries. The project will allow also widening the PA capability of UGENT (e.g., the Precision SCoRing group) in general by allowing for broader results (at both Europe and China) on variable rate applications to be obtained and be accumulated with those being achieved under the 3.5 M EUR worth national project to create a PA centre in Flanders.













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Prof. Abdul Mouazen
Department of Environment
Phone number: + 32 9 264 6037