The main objectives of SUSTAIN are:
- to understand how reduced tillage systems, as compared to conventional tillage systems, impact soil functional biodiversity and soil functions such as soil structural maintenance, organic matter and nutrient cycling, water regulation, filtering and pest regulation;
- to quantify the consequences of reduced tillage systems on the soil ecosystem services of food production and GHG mitigation;
- to investigate the socio-economic sustainability of reduced tillage systems;
- to develop and disseminate tools as soil disturbance indicators, system sustainability evaluation.
SUSTAIN brings together a broad spectrum of expertise in soil biology, soil physic, soil chemistry and agronomy as well as tools for integrated soil ecosystem analysis.
This expertise is combined with the economic and social evaluation of services provided by soil biodiversity. Such trans-disciplinarity in integrating soil sciences and social and economic aspects is novel when assessing the impact of reduced tillage systems.
The study will be conducted in France and the Netherlands in order:
- to compare data from two European countries strongly interested in the development and evaluation of reduced-tillage systems;
- to exchange and enhance the skills of the respective research groups. Moreover, the complementarity of the experimental sites will allow the assessment of many soil services under contrasting conditions and help to derive generic soil quality indicators.
SUSTAIN will combine the use of field experiment and desk study as it will be based on the analysis of new data recorded during the project, combined with assessment of existing datasets already recorded by each team (since 10 years for France, 3 years for the Netherlands).
The combination of new and existing data sets will allow for a broader perspective, reflecting different time scales. Tasks will be carried out at different experimental field sites and through regional farm networks, which allows for the integration of studies carried out under controlled experimental conditions versus on-farm conditions,
different geographical levels such as site, regional, national (France, Netherlands) and cross-national scales. This set-up also facilitates the dissemination of knowledge and best practices among relevant stakeholders, from farmers to policy makers at national and European levels.