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ALMOND PRO-SOIL - Soil protection in Mediterraanean areas through cultivation of new varieties of almond tree

LIFE05 ENV/E/000288


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Contact details:

Project Manager: Eulogio Molina
Tel: +34 968 366722
Fax: +34 968 366792
Email: eulogio.molina@carm.es



Project description:

Background

Nearly 75% of soil in Southern Europe is low on organic matter content and biodiversity. Soil erosion is particularly severe in Mediterranean regions areas, due to the prevalence of steep slopes, dry periods followed by heavy precipitation and, in some cases, inappropriate farming practices. Almond trees are typical of the Mediterranean landscape. They require little water and soil, and are highly resistant to extreme heat and aridity. They have, however, a low resilience to late frost. This, along with a shortage of bees for pollination, limits their widespread growth. To be able to use almond trees widely for soil protection purposes, these issues need to be addressed.


Objectives

The project aimed to analyse and demonstrate the viability of growing almond trees obtained through best farming practice approaches to crossbreeding local varieties with foreign species. As late bloomers with improved reproductive characteristics, these new varieties would be suitable as a means of soil protection and project results were anticipated to be relevant for other high-risk areas of the Mediterranean Basin.


Results

The ALMOND PRO SOIL project succeeded in confirming the agricultural viability of new almond tree varieties in semi-arid areas, as well as their positive effect on soil quality. In all, the project demonstrated the benefits of almond trees cultivation to prevent erosion, and defined the most adapted farming system based on organic amendments and implying low production costs. Results provide new useful elements towards a more sustainable land use and management to protect soil in steep and arid areas of the Mediterranean region, and the methodology presents an appropriate response to land abandonment in rural areas, especially areas at risk from the expected consequences of climate change.

The main outcomes validated the project methodology and confirmed that the new almond varieties grafted on compatible rootstocks are viable from technical and agricultural perspectives. Their extra-late flowering characteristic was confirmed and they grow in a satisfactory manner capable of withstanding frosts. This offers advantages in terms of survival and fruit production compared to other varieties that will be more likely to be affected by frosts. The project also showed that organic amendments play a key role in the improvement and conservation of soil fertility in semi arid regions. Other key results demonstrated that plant cultivation and growth helps in maintaining soil quality, and specifically soil microbial activity, by avoiding degradation and erosion processes. This is highly relevant in the specific project conditions (adverse topographic and climate conditions).

The environmental benefits are directly related to the reduction in soil degradation and erosion. These benefits include: increases in soil fertility and biodiversity (via enhanced organic matter content and microbial activity) with related benefits on soil quality and reduction in erosion; improvement of soil physical structure, stability and water holding capacity; increased nutrient and biochemical characteristics of soil; and the almond trees are able to grow well using low water consumption levels and still produce long life trees that need very little maintenance.

The project also proved to produce indirect environmental benefits, such as: avoiding land abandonment in poor and arid areas particularly at risk from erosion and climate change, controlling forest fires (as almond tree function as an effective firewall) and, mitigation of climate change consequences. This last indirect benefit is of extreme importance as the project brings potential solutions to mitigate climate change impacts in areas likely to suffer gravely in the near future, with problems related to: soil erosion, water scarcity, land abandonment, desertification, etc.

Innovative project aspects with value for other areas (especially semi-arid climate conditions) include the results from field testing new varieties obtained from local ones. As long as varieties suited to local conditions are used, the general approach is easily applicable to different regions. Methods adopted for assessing soil quality/status are also transferable for their ability to integrate sustainability principles that combine soil productivity and soil preservation.

Economical viability is considered good since the initial investment and maintenance costs are rather low compared to other crops. This offers useful win-win development options which succeed in supporting the rural economy’s development in fragile areas and also contribute to reforestation and re-vegetation programmes, after fires or during soil restoration.

Dissemination of the project results reached nearly 800 stakeholders, including key actors in different countries and it was also presented in the Adaptation to climate change session at the “Water for life – LIFE for water” conference which further boosted its demonstration outcomes.

Finally, the project showed that integrated and local/bottom up actions can contribute to the effective implementation of EC policies and directives regarding soil protection and also provides grounds for improving the regulatory framework, future policies and actions. Importantly, this type of project will also be of high relevance in the new policies and measures taken towards the mitigation of the effects of climate change, which is a significant element of EU Environmental strategy.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


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Environmental issues addressed:

Themes

Industry-Production - Agriculture - Fisheries
Land-use and Planning - Soil and landscape protection


Keywords

soil erosion‚  restoration measure‚  reforestation‚  research project


Target EU Legislation

  • Land & Soil
  • Regulation 2078/92 - Agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the prot ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable


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Beneficiaries:

Coordinator Instituto Murcianode Investigación y Desarrollo Agrario y Alimentario.
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description The beneficiary is a research centre that forms part of the Regional Government of Murcia’s Council for Agriculture and Water.
Partners Centro de Edafologia y Biologia Aplicada del Segura (CEBAS), Spain Dept. of Soil Chemistry of the ISE (Institute of Ecosystem Study)-CNR-ISE, Italy AZIENDA, Italy

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Project reference LIFE05 ENV/E/000288
Duration 01-OCT-2005 to 31-MAR -2009
Total budget 1,653,845.00 €
EU contribution 818,000.00 €
Project location Murcia(España),Basilicata(Italia)

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Read more:

Newsletter "Almond Pro-Soil Bulletin, September 2008"
Project web site Project's website (EN/ES/IT)
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan (ES)
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan (EN)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (EN)

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Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version