Sustainable strategies for the improvement of seriously degraded agricultural areas: The example of Pistachia vera L

EC Environment - Life Programme

With the contribution of the LIFE + financial instrument of the European Union

Welcome to AgroStrat

AgroStrat was successfully completed on 30 September 2017

AgroStrat had as main objective the development of an Integrated Management Scenario (IMaS) for the sustainable management of intensively cultivated Mediterranean areas, using as example the cultivation of Pistacia vera L. trees (P. vera L.), which are intensively cultivated in Aegina Island, Greece for the last 150 years, but also in other Greek and Mediterranean areas.

The project, during the 5 years of its duration, produced many innovative results, i.e. methodologies, web decision-making tools and strategic plans that have significant transferability potential. Focusing on the sustainability of intensively cultivated Mediterranean areas, AgroStrat addressed the issues of soil and water bodies protection, the promotion and adoption of good agricultural practices, the sustainable management of agricultural waste, as well as the sustainability of the rural environment as a whole, by working with those who are directly interested, i.e. the farmers and their associations as well as the local and regional authorities. Furthermore, the implementation of an innovative holistic Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) enabled (i) the analysis of the life cycle of pistachio production in the island of Aegina in terms of current cultivation practices, waste production and management methods, (ii) the definition of agronomic and environmental feasibility of applying agricultural waste on soil after composting and (iii) the identification of critical processes that are energy intensive and cause most environmental impacts; based on these outcomes sustainable actions were proposed and applied successfully at field scale. Also, in order to assess the socio-economic impact of the project an integrated socio-economic impact assessment was performed based on reliable key impact indicators that were continuously monitored during the project duration.

The IMaS although developed using the example of pistachio trees cultivation, it was structured in a such way that can be also implemented for other cultivation types and in other Med countries, thus ensuring its transferability. This is because the scenario proposes sustainable cultivation practices for Mediterranean areas under degradation/desertification risk, for sustainable soil and water monitoring and management, nutrients use, proper management of agricultural wastes (recycling, disposal, composting and use in agricultural sector, potential use of wastewater for irrigation, potential production of biochar) as well as, practices for minimizing soil salinization risk and erosion, while promoting soil protection in the long term.

In brief, AgroStrat succeeded to:

  1. develop and implement an integrated, recourse based scenario for the protection and improvement of degraded cultivated soils, by developing sustainable cultivation practices and re-use of treated agricultural wastes in pilot areas in Greece where P. vera L. is intensively cultivated,
  2. identify the pressures and the practices that contribute to soil degradation, identify soil quality indicators that can be used for soil quality assessment at pistachio orchards and at areas where pistachio waste is disposed or reused (following the example of LIFE PROSODOL project which identified the respective soil indicators for olive mill waste),
  3. develop decision-making and monitoring tools that can be used by individual farmers and by local and regional authorities, as well as by farmers’ associations, supporting also the networking between farmers and local authorities and the establishment of Central Management Centres. Two such tools were developed, i.e. the Cultivation Management Software (CMS) and the Central Management Monitoring Tool (CMMT). The CMS provides consultancy to individual farmers regarding soil, water and waste/organic materials quality, mineral fertilization in combination (or not) with organic materials (waste included) and the suitability of their land to accept waste. The CMMT allows network development between farmers and local authorities and establishment of a central monitoring and management system which collects data and provides farmers continuous feedback and updated information regarding guidelines that they have to take into account for sustainable cultivation of pistachio trees. Through this tool, farmers and local authorities/other stakeholders have the opportunity to screen cultivated areas rapidly, identify potential risk conditions and proceed to detailed monitoring, if necessary, implement resources monitoring at field, municipal and regional scale, allowing thus continuous monitoring of the cultivated areas. Moreover, practical, easy to use, field equipment for rapid measurement of soil pH, moisture and EC was constructed, and used by individual farmers. The collected measurements can periodically feed the CMS and update already registered field data,
  4. develop methodologies for agricultural waste exploitation and valorisation to produce valuable, marketable compost to be used as soil additives. The problem that had to be addressed was the high salts content of pistachio waste, which is a common problem in the Med region because of the use of saline water for irrigation. For this, the project developed a composting methodology with the use of natural zeolite as additive to the compostable mixture,
  5. develop practices for “waste management at field”,
  6. develop a GIS-based Land Information System (GIS-LIS) and land suitability maps that allow controlled and sustainable application of treated wastes and ensure preservation of soil quality,
  7. study the environmental footprint of pistachio cultivation and identify stages of high environmental impact (in terms of energy used, GHG emissions, risk for contaminating soil and water resources); based on these “hot spots” sustainable and corrective actions were proposed.
  8. develop a methodology for identification of carbon footprint and identify gaps to be addressed within an agricultural system
  9. develop sets of reliable and representative environmental and socio-economic indicators to assess the overall impact of pistachio production and assist farmers and policy makers to take the appropriate decisions and improve sustainability of P. vera L. cultivation.

AgroStrat partners designed and implemented a very dynamic dissemination strategy throughout Greece and also in Cyprus, Italy and Spain, targeting mainly farmers and their associations as well as local and regional authorities. From a series of informative actions, events, workshops, open discussions, e-learning classes, and publications, the project gained the positive vote of the targeted stakeholders, also due to the success of the implemented pilot studies. Therefore, AgroStrat outputs have the comparative advantage of initial acceptance by the farmers and the authorities, i.e., the stakeholders who can and should implement them. Taking into account this positive view of the interested stakeholders, and in order to transfer the results to other regions of Greece and also other countries, a well designed and focused scaling up strategy was also developed.

AgroStrat foresees also that the dynamicand carefully designed After LIFE Communication Plan and the continuous effort of all partners in the following years will ensure the best possible dissemination and communication of project results and enable their transferability in other cultivations, sectors, regions and countries.

Recent News

20 Apr 2018

The Region of Sterea Ellada organizes a thematic workshop on Saturday, 5 May 2018 in the framework of its activities for enpowering the dynamic of local food production. 

The coordinator of AgroStrat, Dr. Maria Doula, will participate in the workshop and present the subject "Best practices for pistachio trees cultivation" based also on AgroStrat achievements and experience.

Download the workshop agenda

 

14 Apr 2018

Download the Layman's Report of AgroStrat here

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