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Funded
Project.

Böden für eine Klimawandel angepasste Landwirtschaft

Böden für eine Klimawandel angepasste Landwirtschaft

Main application:
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna

Scientific management:
Gernot Zamberger (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna)

Project partners:
Katharina Keiblinger (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna)
Steffen Fritz (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA))

Research field:
Ökosysteme und ÖkosystemdienstleistungenNachhaltige Landbewirtschaftung und Produktionsoptimierung

Project-ID: FTI19-002
Project start: 01. December 2020
Runtime: 36 months / ongoing
Funding amount: € 199.976,00

Brief summary

The latest 2019 IPCC report pointed to the urgent need of adapting land management to cope with climate change. Agriculture is at focus due to an estimated carbon saturation deficit of soils between 40 to 60 % compared to forest and grassland soils. Expectations are high that management change can substantially contribute to climate change mitigation (carbon sequestration) of agriculture. In addition, agriculture is also among the most vulnerable sectors to climate change (drought, heat). Increasing organic carbon stocks of agricultural soils could be a key to better adaptation by enhancing soil buffering capacity against abiotic stresses. Thus, novel farming systems alleviating the agricultural carbon storage deficit could co-optimize climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The project investigates strategies and mechanisms of soil organic carbon storage at the farming systems scale, comparing soil health-oriented pioneer farms (with permanent soil coverage, high crop/cover crop diversity and minimized tillage) to current standard management and undisturbed grass-vegetated reference soils. It is hypothesized that the advanced pioneer farms can restore soil organic carbon stocks of natural grass-reference soils. Two main questions addressed are:

(i) What are the margins of improvement beyond current levels of sustainability? At 15 pedo-climatically diverse sites, the pool-specific organic carbon levels (unprotected, physically aggregate protected, chemically silt/clay stabilized) are compared between the three management systems (pioneer, standard, reference). Underlying processes of distinctive carbon storage pathways are investigated in detail at selected sites with high management-induced differentiation using chemical biomarkers. Results will enable a more accurate definition of targets, indicators and strategies to increase soil organic carbon via cropping system change.
(ii) Does soil carbon sequestration lead to better climate change adaptation? This question is essential to motivate management change of farmers. Therefore, we assess the effect of changes in soil organic carbon on soil structure, alleviation of physical limitations to root growth and better drought stress mitigation. Based on remote sensing indices, advantages of adapted management practices are up-scaled to monitor crop water stress and develop a tool for regional scale identification of effective climate-smart management.

The project will demonstrate the potential of novel pioneer farming systems to close soil carbon storage deficits in agriculture, unravel underlying biological processes and identify pathways linking climate change mitigation with improved crop adaptation to abiotic stresses. Linkage of two important Lower Austrian scientific institutions (BOKU and IIASA), with strong involvement of young scientists, will strengthen science-based solutions to meet the challenges of climate change in agriculture.

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