The European Commission will invest €90 million in 17 new research projects contributing to the EU’s mission “A Soil Pact for Europe”. These projects will work on restoring and protecting soil health for sustainable production of healthy food, protecting biodiversity, building resilience to climate change and contributing to the objectives of the European Green Pact.
The projects bring together 314 participants from 32 countries. In addition to EU Member States, the other countries are associated to Horizon Europe (Israel, Kosovo, Norway, Serbia and Turkey), while others are not (United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Switzerland). The projects cover universities, research centres, SMEs, large companies, NGOs and local authorities.
The projects will benefit the restoration and protection of soil health by 2030 through, for example, the following:
- creation of a knowledge and data repository to integrate knowledge from soil and soil health research and innovation;
- reduction of waste from food processing and valorisation of waste to produce and test soil amendments and organic fertiliser products;
- indicators to measure soil biodiversity and ecosystem services (e.g. agro-ecosystems and forest ecosystems);
- providing tools and methods to identify sources of soil contamination and to improve the implementation of cost-effective and sustainable soil management in urban and rural areas;
- promoting carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, methodological standardisation and certification mechanisms for soil carbon accounting;
- creating a framework for monitoring, reporting and verification of land managers’ efforts to sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
- joint development of materials, guidelines, standardised curricula and training on soil education;
- creation of a one-stop-shop structure to support, expand and promote the forthcoming network of 100 “Soil Lighthouses and Living Laboratories” missions, to be launched next year;
- reducing incineration and landfilling, and improving nutrient recovery from biowaste.
The 17 new projects have been selected by independent experts, following a call for proposals launched in 2022, to which 71 eligible applications were submitted. Most of the projects have already started. The projects will be managed by the European Research Executive Agency (ERA). More information on the projects, including budget and beneficiaries, can be found in the project overview.
EU missions, set up under the Horizon Europe programme for the period 2021-2027, are a new way to bring concrete solutions to some of society’s biggest problems. The EU mission “A Soil Pact for Europe” was launched in September 2021. It aims to lead the transition to restore and protect soils by 2030. To this end, it will create an effective network of 100 lighthouses and living laboratories, fund an ambitious research and innovation programme with a strong social science component, promote a harmonised framework for soil monitoring in Europe and raise public awareness of the vital importance of soils.
Together with the EU Soil Protection Strategy, the proposal for a Directive on monitoring the state of soils and increasing soil resilience (Soil Monitoring Act), the European Soil Observatory (EUSO), the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other strategic initiatives, the soil mission is part of an effective framework for achieving the objectives of the Green Pact. These measures have a key role to play in protecting biodiversity, securing healthy food and water, and improving resilience to natural disasters such as forest fires and floods.
Organisations and individuals can sign the Soil Mission Manifesto to express their support for the Soil Mission and its objectives and become part of a community of practice that advocates the importance of soil health and cares about the future of European and global soils.
Four other EU missions address global challenges in the areas of smart and climate-neutral cities, adaptation to climate change, restoration of our oceans and waters. The missions support Commission priorities such as the European Green Pact, Europe Fit for the Digital Age, the Cancer Plan and the New European Bauhaus.