Funding opportunity for agricultural and food researchers

OPEN CALL: NKJ now welcomes applications from researcher networks in all aspects of food and agriculture. We want to facilitate collaboration between researchers in the Nordic countries, increase synergies and bridge gaps between research and practice.

Deadline for application: 31 januari 2024

 

This call is open to applicants from all fields of research within food and agriculture. NKJ wants to facilitate collaboration between researchers in the Nordic countries and link national research projects where considerable positive outcomes can be reached through a wider regional scope. Nordic collaboration increase synergies in agriculture and food sector research.

NKJ supports the creation of Nordic networks of researchers that can make it easier to apply for funding and participate in European collaborations e.g. Horizon Europe.

To have the chance to be granted, the network should include applicants from at least three Nordic countries. Each gender must be represented by a minimum of 40% of the participants in the network, and NKJ welcomes applicants and participants of other genders. Young researchers should be included in the network.

Network outputs should be useful for the Nordic community and should include knowledge exchange across national borders.

You can apply for maximum 300.000 SEK, and you will need co-financing of at least 50% of the total budget.

 

The focus areas in the NKJ strategy can give you some inspiration:

  • Increase sustainability and resilience in agriculture and food production in a growing bioeconomy
  • Strengthen the Nordic region’s position in agricultural and food research within Europe
  • Use land resources as a basis for value creation and regional development as well as improved supply capacity, reduced environmental and climate impact and better adaptation to the climate
  • Strengthen the knowledge base for sustainable reindeer husbandry
  • Strengthen and develop the New Nordic Food project to promote Nordic food culture and strengthen the food system
  • Strengthen equality within the bioeconomy with a particular focus on gender and the position of children and youth

 

BUT this call is open for applicants from all fields of research within food and agriculture!

 

Call text

Application form

NKJ strategy

Gender equality guidelines

Concrete tools for checking the health of soil

Researchers have gathered science based information from different Nordic countries in a manual on how to check out the health of soil with low-tech methods, readily available and easy to use for farmers and others. The researchers also provide strategies for improving soil health. 

 

During 2021-2022 researchers gathered in the network “Nordic Network on soil health” (NetSH). They shared research, knowledge and experiences on how to improve and sustain soil health in Nordic agricultural soils. They shared the most relevant low-tech methods for evaluating soil health with each other and in workshops.

Healthy soil functions are important for healthy soil-plant ecosystems on the farms, so strategies for farmers to improve and sustain soil functions, soil structure and soil biology have been in focus. 

NetSH also held an open webinar, “Soil health in the Nordic region”, that gained a lot of attention with 130 participants. In addition to this, there were two online meetings and one on-soil workshop arranged by the network.

Lars Munkholm (Aarhus University) and Annette Vestergaard (SEGES) demonstrating ”Tjek jordens sundhed”, the Danish variant of soil health evaluation on the workshop in Norway (NIBIO Apelsvoll) in June 2022.
Photo: Reidun Pommeresche, NORSØK

MANUALS: How to check your soil?

Methods to evaluate soil health on farms has been demonstrated to make them available to as many as possible. Assessment of soil structure, soil compaction, root growth and soil biology has been discussed in the network and knowledge has been exchanged.

The most important tool is the spade combined with sensory evaluations, including pressing soil clumps between your fingers to evaluate how easily they brake and checking the smell of the soil in different depths.

The manuals are available in four Nordic languages:

• Norwegian: Jordlappen

• Danish: Tjek jordens sundhed

• Finnish: MARA Maan rakenteen aistinvarainen arviointi (2019) – Avointen oppimateriaalien kirjasto (aoe.fi) and Peltomaan laatutesti, Microsoft Word – Peltomaan_laatutesti_Havainto_ohjeet2.doc (proagria.fi)

• Swedish: Hur mår min jord?

These methods give a high score to soils with good structure with raisin shaped (rounded and porous) soil aggregates, deep and well growing plant roots, how easily the soil clumps brake, not to hard soil pans and the presence of several pink (inside) root noodles on legume roots and some earthworms in the soil. A healthy soil should relatively fast decompose organic matter, have some dark brown to black color due to organic matter content and have a smell of different fungi, like forest soils. All these methods include focus on comparing soil samples taken with a spade and to visualize and discuss soil functions and soil health with the farmers.

A selection of different low-cost methods showed under the NetSH workshop to visualize and discuss different aspects of soil health, like soil structure, aggregate stability and soil biology. Photo: Sissel Hansen/Reidun Pommeresche, NORSØK

  

 Compacted soil – a common Nordic problem

In the Nordic region we all experience the most severe soil problems in vegetable and cereal production. Much of this can be linked to soil compaction, with a very hard pan (zone) just below the tillage depth. But also in grass production there are soil structural and drainage challenges. In many cereal fields and some grass fields the straw and plant residues decompose very slowly or almost not at all.

In the Nordic region the soil types range from organic (peat) agricultural soils with more than 40 % soil organic matter to different mineral soils with low content of organic matter. In some areas the content of soil organic carbon (SOC) is creeping under 1,5 % (= 3 % soil organic matter SOM) which often is highlighted as a critical lower limit to several soil functions. In our Nordic cool conditions, we discussed that the content have to be higher than this for the soil to function well. 

 

Some strategies to improve soil health

A selection of strategies to improve soil health in the Nordic region as discussed in the Network-meetings and on the workshop is listed here. The order of the key words is not ranked.

Mineral soil:
How to improve soil biology? Input of plant residues and other organic material, better crop rotations and plant diversity, enough water and oxygen in the soil, increase the content of SOM if it is very low.
How to improve aggregate stability? Ley (grass/clover) in the crop rotation, green plants most of the year, use of animal manure and compost, and liming with limestone or natural gypsum.
How to avoid soil compaction and improve soil structure? Lowering tire load and tire pressure and not driving on wet soil. Use a mixture of cover crops, sub crop in cereal and when deep tillage is used, sow plants immediately.
How to improve the decomposition rate of straw and plant residues in the soil? Cover crops, cut the material before incorporation, check for drainage problems. Oxygen and gas exchange  very important for decomposition. Improve soil structure.
How to loosen a hard ploughing pan? Crop rotation + mechanically subsoiling, alfa alfa 2 years and animal manure/sludge.

Peaty soil:
In agricultural organic (peat) soil the aim should be to reduce carbon losses, instead of trying to increase the carbon content. Improve the soil structure from above, not plowing organic material to deep.

Let the spade become your friend

The Nordic farmer should use the spade to check their soils and a more diverse crop rotation as a start to improve soil health. Focus on soil structure and year around green plant cover will be useful in a future with a more unstable climate, with more heavy rains and droughts.

Some of the participants in the network Sustain Nordic soil health (NetSH) from the workshop June 20-21 2022 in Norway. From left to right in front: Reidun Pommeresche (NORSØK, network leader), Sissel Hansen (NORSØK), Mika Tähtikarhu (Luke), Henrik Vestergaard Poulsen (SEGES), Lars J. Munkholm (Aarhus University), Åsa Myrbeck (RISE), Pirjo Kivijärvi (Luke), Tatiana Rittl (NORSØK) and Mette Thomsen (NIBIO). 2. row from left to right: Franziska Fischer (NIBIO), Till Sehusen (NIBIO). 3. row from right to left: Randi B. Frøseth (NIBIO), Sari Iivonen (FORI/Luke) and Annette V. Vestergaard (SEGES). And in the back Frederik Bøe (NIBIO) and Thomas Julseth Brown.

 

Contact
Sustain Nordic soil health (NetSH)
Reidun Pommeresche, Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture (NORSØK)