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News Sustaining farm soil resources in Spain and Italy

Results from a LIFE-funded agronomy project comprising Spanish and Italian partners has developed good farming practice methods using cross-bred almond crops to help improve soil quality on Mediterranean hillsides.

Climate change impacts continue to manifest themselves around Europe and these are becoming particularly acute in the Mediterranean region. Here, hotter and drier weather patterns represent very real risks for key environmental resources such as biodiversity, water supplies and soil quality.

Many Mediterranean areas have suffered a long history of poor soil quality and this phenomenon is often exacerbated by soil erosion. Various factors are associated with Mediterranean soil erosion including land use trends and the spread of arid environments. Erosion impacts are especially severe in areas with steep slopes that are cultivated and tilled by intensive agriculture systems. Nevertheless, solutions do exist to help protect these areas from erosion pressures and a popular method involves growing more strains of permanent crops, which requires less tillage and helps boost the organic matter content of hillside soils. The main challenge involved in this type of sustainable soil management solution centres around finding suitable commercial crops that are able to grow in arid hillside conditions.

Almonds trees offer such opportunities since they are well adapted to most Mediterranean environments and demand for the almond nuts remains traditionally strong throughout the region. One draw-back has been the almond trees’ sensitivity to late frost and cross-fertilisation at colder high altitudes is also problematic due to the lack of pollinating insects such as bees. These natural limitations restricted almonds’ economic potential on higher or more northerly slopes where soil erosion problems exist but conclusions from a LIFE project completed last year have helped extend the viable range of commercial almond tree crops by demonstrating the benefits from a cross-breeding programme.

Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information EC DG ENV - LIFE Programme
Keyword(s) EU-LIFE
Geographical coverage Spain, Italy,
News date 10/08/2010