The innovative Mixed Farm Systems developed in CANTOGETHER are based on the simultaneous
use of crops (cash, feed and energy) and a variety of livestock species, with full
recycling of animal manure to ensure high resource-use efficiency (notably of
nutrients), high provision levels of ecosystem services (soil fertility and biological
regulations), decreased dependence on external inputs (fertilisers, pesticides,
concentrated feeds, energy), and improved environmental and economic
performances. CANTOGETHER will also produce a complete picture of their
positive and negative effects and will facilitate their adoption by jointly involving
researchers and key stakeholders in the agricultural sector (farmers, advisors, policy
makers and actors in the food supply chain).
THE FRENCH NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH - FranceLead applicant
In today’s complex climatic, demographic and energy context, agricultural research must deal with major issues on various scales. Preparing worldwide food availability and security by 2050, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and promoting alternative agricultural and forestry practices that can respond to non-reversible climate change are challenges the entire world must face. Some of the many underlying concerns that must be tackled include understanding individual behaviour on a regional or market level; studying the relationships between plant, animal and human health; researching new ways of producing energy and materials from agricultural sources; and limiting overall environmental impacts. To deal with these issues, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) produces scientific knowledge and works for economic and social innovation in the areas of food, agriculture and the environment.
Plant research international (DLO-PRI) - NetherlandsInitiative partner
DLO-PRI will leads WP3 which involve the integration of MFS at a district and landscape level. Was responsilbe for the development of the methodology to compare and analyse results from different, already existing case studies from contrasting European regions. Based on this methodology mixed farming practices are being analysed and with feedback from the other WPs further optimised.
TEAGASC - AGRICULTURE AND FOOD DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY - IrelandInitiative partner
Teagasc conducts a case study in Ireland examining cost, energy consumption and environmental implications associated with the movements of nutrients between pig and cereal farms (WP3). Teagasc is also involved in WP2 in testing and validating of innovative mixed farming systems at the Teagasc Solohead Research Farm, Moorepark and in the assessment of innovative commercial farms. Teagasc take care of activities concerned with dissemination, technology transfer, training and education.
ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY - United KingdomInitiative partner
ABER actively contributed to the development of a sustainability assessment tool for use at the farm level. It uses data from previous mixed dairy farming systems comparisons to evaluate the sustainability of mixed vs. specialist systems. ABER carries out a socioeconomic evaluation of mixed farming systems, integrating the economic, environmental and social aspects from individual farm holdings through to whole supply chains and regions.
Federal Department of Economic Affairs - Agroscope Swiss Federal Research Station - SwitzerlandInitiative partner
FDEA-ART will leads the environmental assessment and is involved in tasks of WP1 (Identify and design innovative mixed farming systems using a participatory approach and modelling), WP2 (Test and validate new mixed farming system on established long running experiments at the farm level), WP3 (Test and validate innovative mixed farming system at the district and landscape level) and WP5 (Socio-economic viability of mixed farming systems).
The CANTOGETHER project was created to design innovative and sustainable mixed farming systems overcoming the challenges of the present highly specialized European agriculture, with all the related problems, demonstrating the relevance of combining crops and animals to increase sustainability of farms and regions.
The main innovation consisted in the project contribution to alleviating a number of environmental problems in mixed farming systems (MFS), where crop and livestock production live together, accompanied by an increase in the complexity of landscapes favouring biodiversity, increase of soil-organic-matter concentrations and decrease of soil erosion, thus contributing to the conservation of soil quality.
European agriculture has become increasingly specialised with large distances between areas of crop production and areas of animal production, mainly because of economic drivers. This has resulted in a number of problems such as: high fertilisers use; less recycling of nutrients in manure but over fertilization of fields in areas with intensive livestock production; decline in biodiversity due to specialisation of crops and animal production and low crop diversity; increase in transport costs to bring crops for feed livestock. The CANTOGETHER project has aimed at overcoming all these challenges.
By combining systems of crop and animal productions at both farm scale and district scale, the project achieved multiple results: demonstration of how energy consumption, carbon and nutrient flows can be optimized, landscape, natural resources and biodiversity can be protected and improved, fertilizers can be rationalised, sustainable productions promoted. Furthermore, the new MFS contributed to: greenhouse gases mitigation introducing long-term pastures in annual-crop regions; diversification of feed rations by diversifying local crop production; optimization of farm waste recycling, so to reduce consumption of synthetic fertilizers; production of legumes locally, using them as animal feed, thus decreasing N inputs and NO emissions. Finally, the project contributed to the development of energy self-sufficient farms through co-generation (via animal wast fermentation) and production of dedicated crops. The project is still on going.
The real beneficiaries of the project were MFS stakeholders, for which new combinations of agronomic and livestock practices at farm, district and landscape level were identified, leading to a better optimization of carbon, nutrient flows and energy use; in different European contexts, and exchanging experiences thanks to the wide network created by the project, they were also favoured by the proposed design of innovative MFS combining food, feed and energy production through diversified land use.
The project involved 28 organizations (both research and small to medium-sized companies) across 10 European countries (France, Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, Poland and Spain). A European network of 24 experimental and commercial farms and regional farms networks covered a wide diversity of natural and socio-economic conditions. Key stakeholders were involved through a participatory framework.
The project experienced delays i due to the enormous work required for such comprehensive data collection and analysis on such a wide diversity of European soil and climate contexts evaluated in the case studies involved in the project. Similarly, more time and effort was required to implement tools to analyze case studies with different MFS and the farm and district level.
By combining systems of crop and animal production, the project was very positive in terms of environmental impact. It contributed to optimize energy, carbon and nutrient flows, preserve natural resources, improve biodiversity and landscape diversity, and promote production and the use of manure as a fertiliser. It also contributed to create positive economic impacts, with indirect benefits for environment, as it for instance improved the volume of home-grown feed to reduce reliance on imports and the problems of price volatility; it increased the volume of legumes produced locally decreasing reliance on e.g. imported soybeans; it improved the exchange of goods between feed producers and organic manure producers. Overall, CANTOGETHER increased sustainability and competitiveness of European agriculture contributing to increase food security and environmental quality.
The project is still on going, but it is expected that by identifying, designing and testing innovative sustainable MFS, CANTOGETHER will contribute to: 1) Alleviate environmental problems in crop and livestock production due to: minimize of green-house gases emission, increase diversification, recycling of farm waste and reduction of chemical fertilizers,contribute to the development of energy self-sufficient farms and favour biodiversity. 2) Reinforce European agricultural competitiveness as these MFS will maintain a competitive agricultural sector and an active and well-maintained
The project was disseminated through a dedicated website, always updated with relevant news items. National workshops were organized in six different countries. Specific dedicated newsletters were also designed and outlined.