English launches Pan-European research team to unearth pathways to sustainable land management

“Making the most of our land” – English

imgres-2Launch of LANDMARK

The Pan-European research project LANDMARK was launched this week in
Castledockrell, Co. Wexford, Ireland, by Meath T.D. and Minister
Damien English, T.D., Minister for Skills, Research & Innovation.
LANDMARK is a brand new consortium of European researchers and
advisors that will seek to unearth practices and policy pathways that
make the most of Europe’s rich and diverse heritage of soils, which
are key to so many ecosystem services. LANDMARK receives €5 million in
European funding from the European Commission as part of its Horizon
2020 Research Programme.

Is Europe running out of land?

At the launch, Teagasc Director Prof Gerry Boyle explained that
LANDMARK addresses one of the most urgent challenges for European
agriculture: “the number of mouths to feed from each parcel of land
continues to rise. But the ecological footprint that we can afford
ourselves continues to shrink. Last autumn, the UN revised its
projections for population growth: the world’s population is no longer
expected to stabilise after 2050, instead it is now expected to
continue to grow and approach 11 billion people by 2100. These new
figures will certainly fuel the debate whether the world, including
Europe, is ‘running out of land’.”

The LANDMARK coordinator, Dr Rachel Creamer from Teagasc added: “Not
only do we expect Europe’s agricultural land to provide a nutritious
diet for all; we also expect it to provide clean water, to store
carbon, recycle our waste and provide a home for biodiversity. These
competing demands have now brought soil science sharply back into
focus. If we are to make the most of our land, we need to understand
the ‘engine room’ of agriculture in all its diversity.”

Towards sustainable practices and policies

LANDMARK aims to do exactly this: it will open up the soils of Europe
and assess farm practices and policies that optimise the delivery of
food and other ecosystem services. Since both the European food system
and ecosystems do not recognise borders, LANDMARK has taken an
international approach: it will bring together all the knowledge on
land management from European farmers, advisors, scientists and policy
makers.

By 2020, LANDMARK will produce three outcomes:

– For farmers: a Soil Navigator that provides advice on the
sustainable management of soils on ‘my farm’;
– For legislators: a framework for monitoring of soil quality and soil
functions that is applicable across Europe;
– For policy makers: an assessment of policies that can ensure that we
‘make the most of our land’, from both an agronomic and environmental
point of view.

Example of innovation

LANDMARK is an early example of the European Innovation Partnership,
where scientists, practitioners and policy makers work together to
generate new knowledge that can be put to use. At the launch, Minister
of State for Skills, Research & Innovation, Damien English, TD, said:
LANDMARK demonstrates Ireland’s international leadership in research
and innovation in the area of Sustainable Food Production. I
congratulate Teagasc for winning this first, highly competitive call
for research. Teagasc has demonstrated that it is possible for Irish
research institutions to assume a leadership role in securing funding
under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme”.

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