Healthy soils are fundamental to our future food security and mitigating and adapting to climate change. They also play an important role in supporting biodiversity and regulating our precious, and increasingly scarce and unpredictable, fresh water supply. And yet European soils continue to be degraded year after year. The established knowledge on how to protect and restore them, together with a range of policy initiatives that over the decades have focused on soils, appear to not be sufficient to maintain and restore soil health. It is clear that transition in the way we manage our soils is urgently needed to preserve and restore this non-renewable resource. 

A fundamental shift in how we manage our soils will require us to reimagine public policy solutions, but also require us to find ways to stimulate much greater involvement of the private sector. The Common Agricultural Policy and associated environmental policies will be crucial in supporting this transition, but to date have had insufficient impact in this area. A boost could come from the European Commission’s Green Deal with the recently published Soil Strategy, together with the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. These have set objectives for soil protection but it needs to be seen how they will be implemented. Sustaining healthy soils is in the interest of all.

The RISE Foundation has long considered soil a central aspect to all its work and significant attention was given to soil in the Foundation’s work on Nutrient Recovery and Reuse, Livestock Production, and Crop Protection. Unless we can turn the tide of deteriorating soils, no amount of new regulations and technologies to reduce agriculture’s impact will be sufficient. Therefore, RISE has decided to make soil, and its complexities the focus of its next research report.

This report will provide policy makers, policy influencers, industry and NGOs with an overview of the situation vis a vis our state of soils in Europe today and the barriers to the uptake of sustainable soil management practices. It will explore potential private and public initiatives that induce farmers to improve soil health and discuss how these changes can link in with the wider transition needed in our food production and consumption systems.

The report will be launched in June 2022. Preliminary findings will be presented during the Forum for the Future of Agriculture in March 2022.

An advisory committee has been set up to ensure the soundness of the project. Its members are:

  • Claire CHENU – Research Director at INRAE (French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment)
  • Franz FISCHLER – Former EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Ana FRELIH-LARSEN – Senior Fellow at Ecologic Institute
  • Luca MONTANARELLA – Senior Expert at the Joint Research Center, Ispra
  • Joris DE VENTE – Tenured Scientist at CEBAS-CSIC