Towards a carbon circular economy in dryland agricultural systems of the Mediterranean basin

The European LIFE AMDRYC4 project “Climate Change Adaptation of Dryland Agricultural systems in the Mediterranean area”, is working on an “Organic Matter Strategy for a Carbon Circular Economy in Agricultural Drylands of the Mediterranean Basin”. This strategy proposes to integrate comprehensive measures adjusted to dryland agricultural systems increasing soil carbon uptake and contributing, therefore, to both adaptation and mitigation of climate change. The strategy contributes as well to the international 4p1000 initiative, proposed during 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP21) held in Paris in 2015. The 4p1000 initiative intents to increase in 0.4% the soil organic carbon content through the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices that maintain and increase soil organic carbon. The initiative promotes, in this way, soil carbon sequestration to compensate atmospheric CO2 annual emissions (

Dryland agricultural systems of the Mediterranean Basin are exposed to degradation, as they are losing progressively soil structure and organic matter content due to climate change and intensive agricultural practices. Soils with low carbon content have lower water retention capabilities, lower fertility, lower biodiversity of microorganisms, and have higher erosion risks. It is necessary, therefore, to maintain a minimum effective soil organic carbon content to guarantee the sustainability of these systems. Conversely, agricultural and livestock farms and the agri-food industries have to deal with effective management of organic manures and waste. Those are excellent sources of organic matter but, unfortunately, information about their location and availability is not always easily accessible to most farmers.

The “Organic Matter Strategy for a Carbon Circular Economy in agricultural drylands of the Mediterranean Basin” of the European LIFE AMDRYC4 project, intents to cover this gap by presenting a detailed study of the main sources of organic residues and waste (or ingredients) from the agricultural and livestock farms, agri-food industries, sewage sludges, and green manure that can be used by farmers to generate compost and organic amendments to increase the organic carbon content of their soils in a sustainable way. This study has been developed in the “Region de Murcia”, in Southern Spain, that counts with more than 335,966 ha (~30% of its surface) of drylands agricultural systems. This region has been chosen as a representative example of the Mediterranean areas that have a strong economic component related to dryland farming. These farms are nowadays facing important water deficit problems and it urges to implement adaptation measures.

The strategy has evaluated the potential to generate organic residues derived from pruning, crop changes or annual harvests of the main dryland agricultural sectors such are the almond, olive, vineyard, or cereal sectors. From livestock farms, it has been evaluated the potential to produce manures from goat, sheep, chickens, swine, and cattle farms based on knowing records that detail the number and location of farms in Murcia. The strategy will also quantify organic waste issued from agri-food industries such as the olive oil industry. Finally, the strategy will include detailed information on the available sources of organic residues and manures by county, recipes to generate a miscellany of compost, and sustainable practice recommendations to reduce the loss of soil and carbon matter through agricultural practices.


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