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Rural Vision
News article20 December 2022Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy

The Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ tackles soil challenges in rural areas

On 5 December we celebrated World soil day. Missions are a new instrument under the EU research and innovation framework programme 2021-2027, Horizon Europe, and they aim at bringing concrete solutions to our greatest societal challenges. One of them is on soils and new calls for projects have just been published.

Soil deal for Europe

One of the 5 EU Missions launched in September 2021, the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ (Mission Soil), is a flagship initiative of the long-term vision for EU’s rural areas as it is expected to have a significant impact on rural territories by tackling soil challenges, but also by building connections between rural and urban communities of land managers and stakeholders.

The Mission Soil aims at creating 100 living labs (places where to experiment on the ground) and lighthouses (sites where to showcase good practices) to lead the transition towards healthy soils by 2030 and, beyond these, it is implemented through an ambitious research and innovation programme, the harmonisation of soil monitoring and societal engagement.

The Mission targets all types of soils and land use, but it is expected to have a greater impact in rural areas as it is in sparsely populated territories that most agricultural fields and forests are located. Indeed, to celebrate World Soil Day 2022, the Commission, among other activities, published the report Communication and citizen engagement initiatives in line with the Horizon Europe Mission A Soil Deal for Europe which includes a chapter on soil restoration and protection practices in rural areas.

Nine multinational Mission Soil projects with a total budget of 63 million euro have just been launched. These are the following:

  • SOLO which aims to co-create and identify knowledge gaps, priorities, novel approaches, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the progress of the Mission research and innovation activities;
  • BENCHMARKS and AI4SoilHealth that will validate and further develop indicators to measure, monitor and assess soil health and functions making use of integrated frameworks and Artificial Intelligence;
  • SOIL O-LIVE that will explore the connection between soil health and nutritional and safe food. The project will work on the most important areas of olive production in the Mediterranean region and study how soil health influences the nutritional composition, tastiness and safety of olive oil;
  • INBESTSOIL,NOVASOIL and SOILVALUES that will work on incentives and business models for soil health;
  • NATI00NS that will organise national engagement sessions and provide access to capacity building materials and information to prepare potential applicants of living labs;
  • NBSoil that will support a next generation of soil advisors with a blended learning programme to enable them to implement a holistic vision of soil health through nature-based solutions.

An additional project will work with regions and municipalities on citizen engagement in relation to soil protection and restoration (grant agreement under preparation).

All these Mission projects build on the work of the previously awarded projects PREPSOIL, which has been preparing the ground for the Mission, and building capacities for engagement, outreach and knowledge, and SMS.

New funding opportunities will open soon to contribute to the Mission Soil. The Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023 - EU Missions is already published and includes calls for proposals  (‘topics’ in the Horizon jargon) that are particularly relevant for rural areas and communities such as ‘Soils in spatial planning’ or ‘Back to earth: bringing communities and citizens closer to soil’, and the first wave of Living-labs.

The applications will open on the 17 January and close on the 20 September 2023.