SmartSOIL is a research project in the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (2011-2015).
Its aim has been to contribute to reversing the current degradation trend of European agricultural soils by improving soil carbon management in European arable and mixed farming systems covering intensive to low-input and organic farming systems
Farming practices that lead to declining returns and inputs of carbon (C) to soils pose a threat to soil functions by reducing availability of organic matter for soil microbes and by affecting soil structure, and soil C stocks that are key to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. SmartSOIL has focused on arable and mixed farming systems in Europe and has developed an innovative approach using the soil C flow and stocks concept to assess the impact of C management on crop productivity, soil organic C (SOC) stocks and other ecosystem services.
SmartSOIL has identified and developed options to increase C stocks and optimise C use (flows) whilst maintaining sustainable SOC stocks. The flow and stocks concept delineates short- versus long-term management effects on vital soil functions through meta-analyses of data from European long-term experiments (LTEs), as well as new measurements within LTEs. The new understanding can be used to improve existing soil and crop simulation models and test the models against independent LTE data. The models have been used to derive a simplified model to estimate the short- and long-term effects of management on crop productivity and SOC storage. Scenarios of future management systems in Europe for improved productivity and enhanced SOC sequestration have been evaluated under current and future climate.
The cost-effectiveness of alternative policy measures and options for managing SOC flows and stocks for improved productivity and SOC storage have been assessed based on the simplified model. SmartSOIL has developed a toolbox to enable farmers, advisors and policy makers to discuss and select the most appropriate and cost-effective practices for particular farming systems, soils and climates. This comprises a decision support tool (SmartSOIL Tool), Fact sheets, Real Life Case Studies and Videos. SmartSOIL has engaged key stakeholders throughout the project from the 6 case study regions (Denmark, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Scotland, Spain) and the wider EU in the development of the toolbox and in the preparation of policy recommendations. Scientific publications have also been published in peer reviewed journals to inform the scientific community about the results.