State of Art & Relation to Work Programme

The objective of WaterFARMING is to enhance the ecosystem water and nutrient retention and improve use efficiency in diverse arable production systems across Europe and N. Africa from mesic to xeric conditions.
WaterFARMING is an innovative transdisciplinary team that strategically combines academic expertise (agronomy, ecophysiology, crop science, and climate and hydrological modelling), advisory services and farmers’ groups in a diverse network of production systems (Table 3). This network covers a wide range of catchments (e.g., the Mira Irrigation System, Portugal, the Selke catchment, Germany, the Nile valley, Egypt and the Grombalia aquifer, Tunisia), that represent a gradient of increasing water limitation and supply uncertainty from North Europe-South Europe to N. Africa.
The consortium has access to large long-term datasets for the different catchments (Germany) and productions systems. Field-to-catchment scale assessments of water and nutrient budgets and use efficiency will be done using a combination of crop models (DAISY, WOFOST)[2,3]2 and Kaya-Porter Identity[4,5]3 and hydrological water quality models (HYPE) [6,7]4. Based on the water and nutrient use efficiency gaps identified, innovative production systems will be designed according to the concept of ‘green infrastructures’ defined as ‘harvesting the potential of soils and vegetation and their interactions’ to mitigate the loss of soil and water at source and to enhance the use efficiency of available resources with multiple economic, social and environmental benefits (reduced erosion, enhanced water storage, carbon sequestration and habitat protection, reduced flood risk and biodiversity) [8,9]5. Innovative production systems will be based on ameliorated cropping sequences, crop mixtures and input management to enhance water retention and soil fertility from field, farm and catchment scale.
The expected impacts are ways to mitigate farm nutrient and water losses, reduce economical costs to farmers and address contamination of water bodies’ downstream. Farmers’ involvement in the project is crucial for successful adoption and dissemination of innovative production systems [10]6. On-farm trials will therefore be used as a dissemination platform. Tools and protocols developed in the project will be packaged as an online decision support tool available for use by all relevant stakeholders. Policy briefs will be prepared as inputs to the different framework directives on water, fertilizer and CAP policies. The project will demonstrate how combination of site and context-specific management, underpinned by favourable agricultural policies and participative approaches, can enhance soil and water use productivity.
Relation to the scope of the call WPs and the corresponding tasks are tuned to address challenges in the call announcement (see Table 1).
Table 1: Alignment of call text with the WaterFARMING tasks
Call textWaterFARMING tasks
Challenge-1, Sub-topic 1b:
i) Development of water-conserving agriculture practices as a way to improve the management of water and to improve soil properties related to water;
ii) Increasing the resilience of agriculture and landscape management in a context of variable water availability.
The network of production systems (Table 3) in Europe and N. Africa (WP1) will be subjected to water and nutrient productivity assessments (WP2) in order to develop soil, water and nutrient conserving practices from farm to catchment scale (WP4), whilst enhancing the system resilience to climate change and weather extremes.
Challenge-2, Sub-topic-2.a:
Optimizing fertilizer application to reduce over fertilization while avoiding nitrogen and phosphorus losses to surface water and groundwater.
Nutrient leakages to water sources will be assessed (WP2) by preparation of water and nutrient budgets at the farm to the catchment scale to identify the pollution sources due to farming.
Assessment and development of monitoring schemes and indicators, for agricultural catchments to identify, quantify and minimize pollution sources and to reduce impacts on water quality
Crop models will be linked to performance proxies in local monitoring systems to increase their predictive power (WP2). Indicators for productivity, environmental and economic performance will be developed to assess the production system performance (WP3).
Modelling and assessing the nitrate and phosphorus loads from agriculture, forestry and sectors to avoid risks of eutrophication of rivers and lakes, and propose management approaches for reducing impacts on ecosystem biodiversity.
With models (such as HYPE) and ArcGIS, the nutrient and water loads will be mapped from farm to catchment scale and a combination of management practices and green infrastructures will be suggested for integrated soil and water management (WP4).
Challenge 3, Sub-topic-3.c:
Developing participatory approaches and assessing barriers (social, cultural, psychological and economic barriers) at catchment level for better implementation of policies.
Beneficiaries are actively involved (see 5.3 for letters of commitment) for co-generation of knowledge. The methods and tools will be packaged into a decision support tool (WP5) and policy briefs will be disseminated to the EIPs and stakeholder platforms.