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General objective of the project is to offer a feasible solution -without irrigation- for land degradation phenomena caused by a combination of erosive farming practices and land abandonment in areas with semi-arid climatic conditions and vulnerable dry soil types.
More specifically, the project aims to demonstrate on a significant scale and with innovative measurement technologies that application of particular organic farming techniques can improve soil fertility by 20% and meanwhile increase yields with the same percentage. It does so by focalising optimal combinations of methodologies targeted to the specific soils and climatic conditions concerned, amongst which especially crop rotation, compost fertilization and re-introduction of traditional crops. The demonstration should be able to put an end to the actual existing conviction that organic farming is not an economically profitable activity unless sustained by state subsidy-programmes co-financed by the European Union, in support of its wider introduction and abolishment of these subsidies in the long run.
By demonstrating optimal organic farming methods based on traditional crops, the project “Crops for better soil” is expected to achieve the following four results:
• Soil fertility: 20% improvement of organic matter available in the top-soil (30 cm) of the test lots. Currently in Spain the organic matter in dry lands ranges from 0,0 to 0,5%. Furthermore, a series of other indicators of soil quality (NPK, water retention capacity, etc.) should show steady improvements over the years.
• Yields: 20% improvement of the yield production on the test lots, compared to prior levels in the region, without irrigation and the use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides.
• Re-introduction of traditional crops: re-introduction of at least 5 traditional crops. Currently, mostly popular cereals (wheat) and some varieties are planted, but niche markets are not addressed for lack of knowledge or interest. The introduction of traditional crops will first of all improve the soil quality but also enforce the development of new niches; respond to market demand for original, organic and healthy products and thus offer farmers alternatives to practice sustainable ecological agriculture. Furthermore, the focus on legumes provides for a healthy protein source, consuming much less resources than producing meat thereby improving the CO2 footprint of food production.
• Improve the quality of life in rural areas: 20% of farmers with improved perception of their economic and social situation and future outlook.