Brussels (Brussels Morning) The concept of regenerative agriculture is being assessed by the European Commission, which is looking to restore land degradation by protecting soil fertility, reducing erosion and increasing soil organic matter. To that end, the EU executive launched a public consultation on the new EU soil strategy, today, as part of the EU biodiversity strategy 2030.
“A quarter of our planet’s biodiversity is present in soil. This is literally a treasure under our feet, and our food and our future depend on it”, the Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius declared.
Regenerative agriculture is a set of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. It aims to capture carbon in the soil and above ground biomass (plants), reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation and climate change.
At the same time, regenerative agriculture offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and better health and vitality for farming and ranching communities.
“We must equip the EU with a robust soil policy that will allow us to reach our ambitious climate, biodiversity and food security goals, and step up our efforts to manage soil in a way that it can deliver for people, nature and climate”, Sinkevičius observed.
Addressing the issue of land degradation, EU scientist Panos Panagos from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) said that 40% of global arable lands are currently degraded. Erosion is the most dominant process among five, the others being aridity, vegetation decline, salinisation and carbon decline, Panagos tweeted.
A team of scientists at the JRC has been studying heavy metals in the soil across the EU terrain. “We find a statistically significant relation between soil mercury levels and coal use in large power plants, proving that emissions from power plants are associated with higher mercury deposition in their proximity”, the JRC team stated stated in the scientific publication Elsevier/Science Direct.
In late 2018, EU scientists analysed the presence of copper in the soils of 25 EU member states. Their findings concluded that the highest concentration of copper was to be found in wet areas due to frequent fungicide treatments.
The Commission recognises that healthy soils are essential for achieving objectives of the European Green Deal such as climate neutrality, biodiversity restoration, zero pollution, healthy and sustainable food systems and a resilient environment.
Yet, it also admits that EU soils are degrading due to unsustainable management, overexploitation, climate change and pollution.
On 4 December 2020, the Commission launched the EU Soil Observatory, which will help to support policy-making by providing soil knowledge and data flows needed to safeguard soils and to raise awareness of the overall value of soils.
The Commission’s public consultation will run until 27 April. It is seeking input from social partners on challenges and opportunities regarding land and soils ecosystems which deliver services such as the provision of food, energy and raw materials, carbon sequestration, water purification and infiltration, nutrient regulation, pest control and recreation.