The main objective of the symposium is to bring academics, researchers, and stakeholders together to provide creative and innovative ideas that could provide a basis for the testing and subsequent adoption of strategic ways for implementing sustainable GHG mitigation and environmental solutions taking into account the need for:-
- coherent environmental solutions, through a systems-based approach.
- economically viable and socially acceptable options.
- a systems-based decision-support tool.
Arable cropping systems
Globally, there are a large number of arable cropping systems based mainly on the climatic conditions and land types/topography (e.g., dryland/upland, wetland-dryland/upland, and wetland), leading to the adoption of different cropping patterns (e.g., cereal only, cereal-legume, and cereal-vegetable). Arable crops are mainly associated with tillage-related cultivation systems, which vary from region to region, and are among the most important land uses influencing soil properties and causing environmental and ecological degradation.
Land use (cereals, vegetables, etc.), soil/land types and management practices (inorganic and organic fertilizers, as well as addition of organic residues) within a system controls the extent of emission of GHGs, air pollution and leaching losses. Inappropriate cropping and cultivation techniques, as well as excessive use of fertilizers, can exacerbate these problems. Many soils may be susceptible to erosion, and the loss of organic matter leading to poor structure, biodiversity loss, and pollution due to pesticides and herbicide residues and the accumulation of heavy metals. This session will therefore focus on research work in arable cropping systems that have assessed potential solutions to coupled air, water and soil pollution.
Grasslands (pasture, hay and silage) dominate the total global agricultural area. Livestock is grazed mostly on pasture and meadows. Grazing intensity and fertilizer (organic and inorganic) management play an important role in soil health and productivity while also contributing to a large share of total agricultural GHG emissions and pollutants (e.g., NH3, NOx, NMVOCs and particulate matters and/or water (e.g., NO3– and PO4–) through leaching, volatilization and runoff. Livestock itself accounts for about half of all anthropogenic emissions, i.e. a quarter of methane emissions through gut fermentation and the decay of excreta. The projected increase in livestock numbers will not only impact on the production of manure by ~60% by 2030 but also methane emissions.
These environmental pressures warrant adoption of sustainable management for grassland systems that depend not only on livestock numbers but also on fertilizer form and amount, linked to climate conditions, available resources, ecosystem/biodiversity services, and avoidance of events leading to environmental pollution. In this session there will be a focus on solutions to coupled air, water and soil pollution, in both grazed and un-grazed grassland systems.
Mixed farming systems are very popular in both developed and developing nations, and are generally divided into four systems (i) Agro-pastoral system (arable ley), (ii) Agro-Forestry system, (ii) Silvo-pastoral system, and (iv) Agro-Silvo-Pastoral system. Other than agro-forestry, livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) grazing is common in mixed farming systems. The number of agro-silvo systems associated particularly with beef/meat and dairy production has been increasing globally. In these mixed systems, as in grassland, application of organic and inorganic fertilizers to improve crop/biomass production may increase GHG emissions and environmental pollution. Yet, these systems are thought to increase the use of crop by-products resulting in improved nutrient recycling and reduced methane production.
Accordingly, mixed farming as an approach to satisfy the global demand for food, meat and milk could have some advantages in reducing the environmental and carbon footprints. However, applied research and extension are of critical importance if the environmentally friendly factors of the system are to be adequately exploited. Considering the fundamental change and integration of livestock as a mechanism to promote system flexibility, identification of technologies and policies for simultaneous reduction of GHGs and environmental pollution will be the main focus of this session.
Current economical and structural changes in agriculture are associated with both the intensification of existing land uses as well as land use change. Management practices associated with agricultural systems and the resultant environmental consequences for soil, water, air, and biodiversity must be addressed in a sustainable manner and socioeconomically viable ways. Compared to single measures, integration of several measures and/or whole farm or systems approach might be necessary to maximise any benefits, but a clear understanding, as well as the environmental and agricultural benefits of the proposed measures is still limited. In addition to mitigation options for GHGs and environmental pollution, the implications of cross-compliance measures relating to the impact on farming systems and economic costs are also unclear.
System-based long-term research is required to directly compare different management and mitigation strategies, identify the key environmental drivers and their socio-economic implications. There are substantial economic challenges facing the farming community, requiring assurance of financial benefits while imposing a less detrimental impact on the quality of the environment. Therefore, a clear socially acceptable and effective way to improve farm incomes while protecting the environment, is required and this will be the focus of this session.
Decision Support Tools
Limited field measurements and excel-based national inventory methods (IPCC Tiers), focussed mainly on the developed nations, are being used for accounting, and form the basis for mitigating the environmental consequences of GHGs, air pollutants and leaching losses. However, these approaches often struggle with an adequate assessment of the impact of agricultural management practices particularly mixed farming systems. There are substantial difficulties in incorporating any mitigation strategies and are unable to provide immediate feedback on the consequences of management actions/decisions. As measurements covering all ecosystems and soils are not feasible, the use of model-based decision-support tools could be an alternative option in order to cover diverse agricultural systems.
Any verified and validated model should be used as a decision support tool to provide assessments at a unit level but applicable to the regional scale. This would help raise local awareness, provide prospects for actions, aid in refining and implementing emission mitigation techniques, and demonstrate the effects of innovative actions. A further benefit is that they can help to identify environmental hotspots, evaluate indicators of sustainability provide alternative management scenarios, identify practices having a positive impact on net GHG emissions and the environment and provide options for assessment of the economic effects of interventions at all scales. This will be the topic of this session.
This session of the symposium will address weather and climate related impacts on agriculture, as well as the processes that mediate these impacts. In this session, interdisciplinary studies underlying soil-vegetation-atmosphere transfer (SVAT) of greenhouse gases and water, as well as research on adaptation to extreme weather and novel risks (e.g. from insect pests and disease) due to climate change will be addressed. The research under this theme addresses the challenges in integrating climate and meteorological insights into agricultural management and adaptation to climate change. The session features research on extreme weather events, adaptation to climate change, soil-vegetation-atmosphere transfer (SVAT), soil processes as mediated by weather events, and other research that showcases the use of meteorological or climate data for applications in land management including risk assessment (e.g. for disease spread).
Research on forecast systems, and other weather-related decisions support is very welcome. To develop a place-based understanding of meteorological impacts on farming systems, farmer involvement in the gathering of meteorological data could also be discussed as well as the modelling of the spatio-temporal variation in meteorological conditions to fill in sparse weather data (as e.g. done in the MÉRA: climate re-analysis dataset produced by MetEireann). A well-developed understanding of climate drivers of soil and vegetation processes as well a good understanding as to how an altered climate may affect agriculture is needed for sustainable agricultural and land-based energy systems.