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Final report on the project ‘Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Conservation (SoCo)

  • Authors: SoCo Project Team
    Editors: Geertrui Louwagie, Stephan Hubertus Gay, Alison Burrell
  • EUR Number: 23820 EN
  • Publication date: 6/2009

Abstract

Agriculture occupies a substantial proportion of the European land, and consequently plays an important role in maintaining natural resources and cultural landscapes, a precondition for other human activities in rural areas. Unsustainable farming practices and land use, including mismanaged intensification as well as land abandonment, have an adverse impact on natural resources. Having recognised the environmental challenges of agricultural land use, the European Parliament requested the European Commission in 2007 to carry out a pilot project on ’Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Conservation through simplified cultivation techniques‘ (SoCo). The project originated from a close cooperation between the Directorate- General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC). It was implemented by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) and the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES).
This report synthesises the findings of the SoCo project and translates them into conclusions and recommendations. It reviews soil degradation processes, soil conservation practices and policy measures at European level. The analysis is taken to the local scale by means of ten case studies distributed over three macro-regions. Aggregated environmental benefits of adopting particular soil conservation practices are explored with model calculations. Finally, the report discusses the effectiveness and efficiency of instruments for soil protection, maintenance and improvement in Europe, exploring opportunities and critical issues linked to the adoption of conservation practices. The report closes with policy-relevant conclusions as a basis for policy recommendations.

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