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CORE II ERA NET: Real common pot - Improved phosphorus Resource efficiency in organic agriculture via recycling and enhanced biological mobilisation - IMPROVE P - OF0391

Organic farming (OF) systems rely on the efficient use and recycling of available re-sources. Currently, some mineral nutrients like phosphorus (P) are used only once to produce food. Subsequently, they are lost due to poor recycling of organic wastes back to farmland. There is an urgent need to improve the recycling of P from urban areas and the food industry, back to cropland. The IMPROVE-P project’s overall goal is to design improved P recycling systems for OF. This includes: (a) enhanced P recycling using secondary P fertilizers as alternative P fertilizers (APF) (permitted APF: e.g. treated household or food processing waste, meat and bone meal, wood ash, basic slag, etc.; currently prohibited APF: e.g. incineration slags, cleaned ashes), (b) higher plant P use efficiency due to enhanced agronomic measures (e.g. use of adapted cultivars, applica-tion techniques, P mobilization by cover cropping), and (c) improved P availability to plants by application of Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR). Both organic and inorganic sources of fertilizer P may be associated with some contamination by pollutants. Therefore, for a holistic evaluation the project aims to develop tools to deter-mine which APF will minimize environmental damage by (d) a life cycle assessment (LCA) of the most important APF, (e) modelling the risks of soil accumulation of pollu-tants, and (f) development of an index value to assess APF suitability for OF. Optimum practices for OF will be identified using an integrated approach including a review of existing data (WP1), experimental studies and modelling assessing the suitability of APF in comparison to currently used rock phosphates (WP2), assessment of the effects of addition of PGPRs and implementation of selected agronomic techniques for en-hanced P bioavailability (WP3), and assessment of stakeholders’ perceptions of APF (WP4). The project’s dissemination activities in WP0 will target stakeholders, consumers and policy makers.
Sustainable and efficient management of phosphorus and use of secondary fertilizers within organic agriculture
The project purpose is to develop strategies to balance P cycles in organic farming with recycling fertilizers in Central and Northern European countries. The main impact of the project will be the improved cycling of P at a regional scale which is (in principle) in full accordance with the goals of OF. Furthermore, the long term P status of OF soils will be improved by the implementation of management measures aimed at balancing P budgets. This project will address farmer concerns about the agronomic and economic viability of optimized systems that ensure efficient P recycling back to agriculture through the use of alternative P fertilizers (APF). Moreover P nutrient use efficiency will be increased through stimulating biological soil processes. In addition, potential environmental issues arising from the use of APF will be assessed. Recommendations about the suitability of improved crop production practices and the use of APF will be formulated based on a broad base of stakeholder input.
Farmers will get benefits from information about APFs and their agronomic efficiency, the organic movement will get tools to increase their credibility and consumers/politicians a compilation of information assessing the potential benefits and risks of their use.

1. IMPROVE-P will help to halt the decline in P availability of organically farmed soils by identifying sustainable agronomic practices in OF and suitable APF.
2. By addressing the issue of P availability in OF systems, IMPROVE-P will contribute to the development of more resilient cropping systems with higher yields and yield stability.
3. IMPROVE-P will make a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge on APF that will be applicable in the conventional sector as well as the OF sector. Trials will generate data on plant growth after application of APF and plant bioavailability of P in APF in soils. This will be a major scientific innovation since such data are scarce in Europe.
4. IMPROVE-P will deliver scientifically validated recommendations on: a) the most suitable APF b) the best approaches to assess the quality of APF in relation to the benefits from their use, and c) optimized agronomic practices, techniques and technologies adapted to different crop production systems under different pedo-climatic conditions in the participating countries.
5. IMPROVE-P will deliver a ranking of plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPRs) able to mobilize soil P under different pedo-climatic conditions and crops.
6. IMPROVE-P will contribute to developing sustainable approaches to close nutrient cycles between urban and agricultural areas in Europe.
7. IMPROVE-P will generate science-based knowledge on APFs and PGPRs suitable for OF, and provide a solid basis for a discussion of EU regulations.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2016

Cost: £90,035
Contractor / Funded Organisations
The Danish AgriFish Agency
Organic Farming