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Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

EcoFAR: Food security and climate change mitigation by means of ecological farming development - conservation tillage, bioeffectors and sustainable weed management

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.03.00  Biotechnical sciences  Plant production   

Code Science Field
B006  Biomedical sciences  Agronomics 

Code Science Field
4.01  Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences  Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 
Keywords
ecological agriculture, greeenhouse gasses, conservation soil tillage, bioeffectors, weeds, soil mirobial communities
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (26)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  29875  Marko Bajc  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Technical associate  2018 - 2021  286 
2.  24416  PhD Klemen Eler  Biology  Head  2018 - 2021  310 
3.  29164  PhD Mitja Ferlan  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2019 - 2021  226 
4.  19262  Svetlana Gogič Knežić    Technical associate  2018 - 2021 
5.  54916  Anton Govednik  Plant production  Researcher  2021  19 
6.  17791  Marjanca Jamnik    Technical associate  2019  17 
7.  39085  PhD Janez Kermavnar  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Junior researcher  2018 - 2021  131 
8.  07127  PhD Hojka Kraigher  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  1,345 
9.  50798  PhD Bor Krajnc  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2018 - 2021  65 
10.  54402  David Lenarčič  Biology  Technical associate  2020 - 2021  14 
11.  17789  Gabrijel Leskovec    Technical associate  2018 - 2019 
12.  21581  PhD Irena Maček  Biology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  136 
13.  05993  PhD Ines Mandić-Mulec  Biotechnology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  646 
14.  53788  Sara Mavsar  Plant production  Junior researcher  2020 - 2021  24 
15.  13073  PhD Rok Mihelič  Plant production  Researcher  2018 - 2021  494 
16.  24268  PhD Tanja Mrak  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  136 
17.  11279  PhD Nives Ogrinc  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2018 - 2021  1,150 
18.  14056  PhD Marjetka Suhadolc  Plant production  Researcher  2018 - 2021  261 
19.  31877  PhD Nataša Šibanc  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2018 - 2020  93 
20.  17780  Viljem Šijanec    Technical associate  2018 
21.  26540  PhD Polonca Štefanič  Biotechnology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  204 
22.  19261  Irena Tič    Technical associate  2018 - 2021  240 
23.  10583  PhD Boris Turk  Plant production  Researcher  2019 - 2020  212 
24.  14011  PhD Dominik Vodnik  Biology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  417 
25.  28401  PhD Peter Železnik  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  188 
26.  53196  Vid Žitko  Plant production  Researcher  2019  20 
Organisations (3)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  67,290 
2.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  92,005 
3.  0404  Slovenian Forestry Institute  Ljubljana  5051673000  12,274 
Abstract
Sustainable intensification of agricultural production is regarded as one of the main human efforts for the following decades. It includes increasing yields and food quality while simultaneously reducing negative environmental effects of agriculture (greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, eutrophication, toxic effects of pesticides, soil quality decrease and loss of biodiversity). Ecological (or organic) agriculture (EA) is frequently proposed as an option to achieve these goals but substantial scientific progress and abandonment of unproven ideas and practices will be needed for EA to become more competitive and practically feasible.   Within this project we will integratively address several key aspects of EA, where progress is urgently needed: (I) nutrient (particularly nitrogen) dynamics and losses, (II) soil greenhouse gas emissions, (III) soil microbiome functioning and its regulation using specific agricultural practices and bioeffector application and (IV) smart weed suppression based on the knowledge on the biology of weed species. The research will be focused on arable production.   The main goal of the project is to test specific combinations of several management options which are known to substantially influence overall use-efficiency and consequently performance of EA. We will experimentally manipulate soil tillage, covercroping and microbiome stimulation to observe the effects on crop growth and yield and on the above mentioned aspects (nutrients, GHG emissions, rhizosphere, weeds).   The experimentation will be performed at two spatial scales: (1) field manipulation experiment, set up on an area with more than 18 years of conservation tillage and several years of EA regime, and (2) two mesocosm experiments, supporting the field experimentation. Within the field experiment several treatments will be compared in three consecutive growing seasons combining different types of soil tillage (reduced tillage vs. conventional ploughing), crop species (maize, cereal, soybean) and covercropping (present vs. absent). The activities to assess agroecosystem response to the experimental treatments will include crop growth and final yield determination, climate and soil factors, nutrient status and dynamics, soil microbiome functioning (composition, N-transformation genes, microbial biomass), weed assessment (abundance, functional composition, soil seed bank), CO2, CH4 and N2O soil emissions and C / N modelling.   In mesocosm experiment No.1 we will investigate the performance of the selected bioeffectors with scientifically proven action to stimulate plant stress tolerance and growth. The influence of bioeffectors on juvenile plant growth and emergence of several crop species and on soil microbiome functioning will be determined and compared with appropriate controls. Best performing bioeffector will also be used in the field.   Mesocosm experiment No.2 will be set-up to assess temporal dynamics of soil N availability and plant N uptake during plant residue decomposition. The results will be important to better synchronize N release from residue mineralisation and N uptake by crops. We will use the 15N enriched biomass of different crops and cover crops. Different residue incorporation depths will also be compared.   The project activities will be combined into six workpackages; one is concerned with the project management, communication and visibility whereas the others combine scientific tasks of the same focal point (nutrients, weeds, soil microbiome, crop status, soil GHG emission).   Well-proven research methods will be carried out or supervised by established researchers of the project team. Collaboration with some excellent foreign researchers and research groups will further enhance the project feasibility. Special emphasis will be given to the dissemination activities, which includes both scientific publishing and presentation of results to other professionals (policymakers, advisory service, and farmers) and other intere
Significance for science
The proposed research is highly relevant for the scientific progress in EA and beyond. We will add new knowledge and supplement the existing one specifically on crucial issues of EA such as the reduction of weed competitiveness, crop growth stimulation without the use of pesticides and fertilizers, carbon sequestration, reduction of GHG emissions from croplands, soil fertility conservation and balanced nutrient flow. Our methods are scientifically sound since we believe that EA must more strongly build on rigorous experimentation and evidence-based conclusions and should discard unproven practices. The proposed project will address both basic and applied issues of agricultural science by incorporating recent findings and established methodologies from soil science, microbiology and environmental science. More specifically, the following relevant applied issues of EA will be addressed within the project: · The long-term effects of different soil tillage regimes on different components of arable agroecosystem important for crop growth/yield and the environment (nutrient availability, soil as habitat, soil organisms, weed vegetation, GHG emissions) · The agronomic practices to steer soil microbiome for optimal soil nutrient flow and plant nutrient uptake, soil organic matter retention and reduced GHG soil emissions · The efficacy of selected bioeffectors and biostimulants (including a specific strain of Bacillus subtilis, intensively studied by some members of the project team) to promote crop growth, stress tolerance and soil functioning · The synchrony between plant nutrient uptake and litter mineralisation by proper timing of cover crop and straw/stower incorporation into the soil · Efficient weed suppression in EA using cover cropping and by targeting specific weed functional traits that respond negatively to certain agricultural measures We will also add new relevant knowledge or supplement the existing one on the following fields of basic science: · Quantifying soil greenhouse gas emissions is an essential task for understanding the atmospheric impacts of anthropogenic activities in terrestrial ecosystems. How much lower the atmospheric impact of ecological agriculture in comparison to conventional agriculture is, is poorly known and more research is needed to account for the huge diversity in environmental conditions and management options which strongly influence GHG emissions. · Understanding and managing complex plant-microbe-soil interactions currently is state-of-the-art in soil ecology. This includes microbial community composition and community functioning in different soil and management conditions. Management of microbiome through bioeffector application to the soil is currently intensively studied by soil ecologists.
Significance for the country
The relevance of the proposed project for the society and economy is expressed in the following issues:   Link with the key EU social objectives: The project objectives are directly connected with the social objectives of Slovenia and EU, more specifically with the objective: “FACCE - Agriculture, food security and climate change”, which is also one of the key focal points of the current call for projects. EA is a viable option in a rapidly changing climate to combine future food needs of the world and simultaneously decrease the environmental problems induced by agricultural production. In this respect further research is much needed; some of open questions will be addressed within the proposed project.   Relevance for policymakers and producers: Through different dissemination approaches (workshops, project website, press releases) the project team will transfer the directly usable results to the practitioners (farmers, advisory services). Project will also support policymakers (Ministry of agriculture) in their development of politics and strategies the field of ecological farming. It is within the strategy of Slovenia and Europe to build on sustainable development. Economically and environmentally sound farming options are among the crucial segments of sustainability, however, many policy instruments, based on research, will be required to facilitate EA development and implementation.   Socioeconomic impact: agricultural production on arable lands is responsible for major part of our staple food and animal feed supply but the products have relatively small added value. Products from EA generally are higher priced but many farmers are still reluctant to take up AE. By investigating and solving specific open issues of EA it is our plan to encourage more farmers for EA, thereby increasing their economic position and outcome of agricultural sector as a whole. Environmental protection and sustainability: by promoting specific practices and measures of EA the project will be important in our efforts to lower the environmental impact of agriculture (soil carbon loss, erosion, soil compaction, soil biodiversity decline, global warming effect, eutrophication, nitrate losses to the groundwater, unwanted pesticide effects, etc.), while at the same time not losing to much yield.
Most important scientific results Interim report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report
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