Excalibur, the research project uniting 10 countries to reduce fertiliser use in the EU
A group of 16 companies and organisations from 10 EU countries, have come together to carry out the Excalibur project, designed to change the quality of soil biodiversity while reducing the use of artificial fertilisers in agriculture.
The initiative would demonstrate the effectiveness of biocontrol and biofertilisation practices in maintaining plant health without the use of chemicals. The focus of this research revolves around the constant interaction at different scales between plants, soil and soil organisms (microdiversity).
To this end, the construction of an innovation model has already begun under two requirements on which the Excalibur project is based: on the one hand, the incorporation of criteria that evaluate the state of biodiversity existing in a specific soil; and on the other, the development of technological tools to monitor the optimum conditions of soil properties for the correct growth of plantations.
The effectiveness of this study is being evaluated by planting three types of crops: tomato, apple and strawberry, under different experimental conditions, spread over several open field areas in Europe (with different climatic and soil characteristics).
The variation in this initiative, which makes it unique from other research, is based on the use of technological practices to modify soil biodiversity for use as biofertilisation. In this way, these innovative techniques would reduce the use of additional chemicals while developing new agro-ecological practices.
The initiative would demonstrate the effectiveness of biocontrol and biofertilisation practices in maintaining plant health without the use of chemicals
"Today's conventional agricultural practices, including many pesticides and fertilisers, have an impact on the natural microbial community. The loss of soil biodiversity not only increases the risk of pest outbreaks, but also affects ecosystem services of micro-organisms, such as water, carbon and nitrogen cycles. The potential of this project would also encompass the identification of bacterial species as innovative biofertilisers and biopesticides, to bring about a change in crop soil management based on biodiversity,' explains Dr Stefano Mocali, project coordinator.
EXCALIBUR is an international research project launched in June 2019 and funded by the European Union’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 under grant no. 817946. EXCALIBUR, led by Dr Stefano Mocali at the Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA, Italy), brings together other 15 European partners: NHM and NIAB (UK), InHort and Intermag (Poland), RI.NOVA and UNITO (Italia), KIS (Slovenia), NIOO-KNAW (The Netherlands), UCPH (Denmark), TUGRAZ (Austria), UGR and IZERTIS (Spain), and KOB and FÖKO (Germany).