Climate-Smart Agriculture on Organic Soils

Our project “Climate smart Agriculture on Organic Soils” (CAOS) aims to generate the knowledge to design climate smart agricultural systems for organic soils adapted to the diverse regional conditions of Europe.

Drought spells and extreme precipitation events are likely to increase in a changing climate and endanger the stability of agricultural production. Drainage fosters mineralization of organic soils and deteriorates the soil and water quality, inducing a high risk of crop failure.

Due to subsidence, the remaining lifetime of such systems is limited by the (rising) sea water level and underlying low-quality soil layers. Organic soils are the hotspots of vulnerability, adaptation needs and GHG emissions in temperate and boreal Europe.We propose that wet organic soils could be used as risk insurance in dry periods on farm or regional level, while water and soil management could prevent yield losses due to trafficability problems in wet conditions. CAOS will provide and distribute evidence that climate smart management improves yield stability and quality as well as resilience to climate change while providing strong GHG mitigation and improved soil and water quality.

We expect that the strong potential for adaptation to increased climatic variability on farmed organic soil will facilitate mitigation of the largest GHG source from agriculture in Central and Northern Europe.Study regions represent typical land use systems and unique challenges in six regions in Europe with a large share of organic soils drained for agriculture. In each study region, on-farm evidence of past climate smart management is synthesised, including farm surveys and expert knowledge.

In four study regions, we will conduct field experiments with innovative climate smart management options comprising active water management, soil management (sand addition), and wetness-tolerant species for bioenergy use. Cross-cutting for all study regions, we will gather and analyze data on agro-economy, biomass quantity and quality, soil quality, water management, and water levels.We will derive indicators for a successful and climate smart implementation of water and soil management. Process-based modelling will be used to synthesize the data and to evaluate the adaptation through soil and water management under a changing climate. We will also perform scenario analysis of climate change risk abatement compared to unregulated drainage, analyse costs and test various policy instruments to support the future implementation of climate smart management of organic soils. Synergies with GHG mitigation and water quality will be quantified.

Stakeholders will be involved in bi-directional manner as regional partners, by workshops and questionnaires, and results will be disseminated widely to the scientific community, practitioners, decision makers, media and the general public.