Work Packages

The 15 early-stage research fellows in INSPIRATION work within 5 work packages, which represent the different research themes that address the science and training objectives of the project. The work packages provide a breadth of investigation covering the key issues in the field of sustainable intensification of agriculture (SIA): fundamental understanding of processes, development and application of novel monitoring approaches, evaluation of technological innovations and methods to manage environmental impacts from agriculture and improve productivity, sustainability aspects and knowledge transfer (KT). This provides a holistic network which integrates knowledge, methods and skills from numerous disciplines to answer the specific problems relating to SIA in Europe. Each work package has significant input from both academic and industry partners ensuring productive research collaboration and maximising the impact of cross-institutional, interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral and transnational partnerships for the benefit of the fellows.

The research training covers state-of-the-art laboratory and field studies integrated with the development of advanced numerical modelling, which allows INSPIRATION to utilise its own innovative methods and latest advances within and between projects and work packages. The formal training programme delivers units covering multiple disciplines and integrates these by demonstrating the practical application of theory within the research undertaken by each fellow in the work packages.

Work Package 1 : Innovative methodologies for measuring fluxes of agricultural chemicals in the subsurface

Our ability to accurately quantify and predict mass transfer and cycling of C, N and organic pollutants through the transfer continuum of the atmosphere, soil, surface water and groundwater systems, and the role of European agro-ecosystems as sources or sinks is poor. Without this capability we cannot devise management practices which increase agricultural sustainability (by minimising impacts) across European landscapes. WP1 is set out to identify suitable sorbing agents for the specific detection of agricultural chemicals and by-products. Within this work package two projects (ESR1&2) are designed to develop semi-passive sampling techniques with single well tracer mechanism (PS-FVPDM) and passive flux meter technology (PFM). These innovative methods will be tested from the laboratory to field-scale for quantifying and continuously monitoring fluxes of agricultural chemicals leaching from a field to groundwater and surface water. The above devices allow continuous measurement, capturing all temporal variation in solute fluxes between systems, incurring considerable savings in monitoring costs thus enabling wider-scale, informed decision making for agricultural management practices.

Work Package 2 : Predicting catchment-scale nutrient and contaminant fluxes between environmental compartments

In close collaboration with WP1, WP2 is aimed at predicting catchment-scale nutrient and contaminant fluxes between land and water. The collective efforts of five different projects (ESR3-7) target the quantification of nutrient fate and transport across agricultural landscapes using integrative isotope techniques. Besides essential nutrients, contaminant transport in and from agricultural areas determines the need to develop site-scale smart monitoring techniques and catchment-scale modelling of the environmental impacts of agricultural contaminant fluxes. These projects specifically address sediment-based nitrate reduction potential at catchment-scale and its integration in reactive transport models, and the transfer of green house gases (e.g. N2O, CO2, CH4) in the saturated zone-unsaturated zone-groundwater-river-atmosphere system. The innovation of WP2 lies in allowing our monitoring strategy to be uniquely adaptive which avoids large time delays in management decisions.

Work Package 3 : Restoring marginal land for agriculture using low cost amendments and bioremediation

Work Package 3 (ESR8-10) evolves around marginal land practices for (i) developing biosensors as monitoring tools to assess soil restoration; (ii) biorestoration of contaminated soil in order to enhance productivity; and (iii) assessing the dynamics of soil organic matter (SOM) transformations to improve soil function and productivity by addition of re-usable waste materials. The challenge addressed by WP3 focuses on investigating past or present systems which fail to achieve sustainability, and using local waste media to improve soil quality and reduce impacts, both in order to robustly predict soil restoration measures.

Work Package 4 : Mitigation of soil and groundwater impacts from agriculture using mixed waste media

The creation of low-technology sustainable management concepts for land drainage to conserve resources, manage water pollution, enhance soil quality and mitigate GHG emissions is the focal point of the collaboration in WP4 (ESR11-13). These projects investigate sustainable treatment technologies using mixed waste media to mitigate agricultural contaminants; evaluate recycling possibilities of media used for mitigation of contaminants in land drainage; and apply isotope techniques for process and performance assessment of nutrient treatment in bioreactor and land drainage systems. Developing novel farm-scale bioreactor and nutrient recycling technologies for resource (N, P) recovery/re-use and mitigating point source and diffuse C, N and P emissions may apply considerable savings in fertiliser usage and therefore costs.

Work Package 5 : Sustainability of agricultural management strategies at the catchment-scale

Assimilating information and innovations from WPs1-4, the two projects (ESR14&15) in WP5 are to develop new decision-support tools for stakeholders to (i) select management practices and impact mitigation technologies which support SIA in Europe, and (ii) compare/spatially optimize scenarios which balance environmental and agro-economic impacts at catchment-scale. They include a sustainability assessment tool and predictive model to deduce the impacts of management practices for agrochemicals at farm- and catchment-scale. New indicators and performance metrics are developed for stakeholders to identify, measure and implement optimal production systems and management solutions for SIA. The indicators are both "effect-based" (characterising agro-ecosystem state and potential impacts on other ecosystems from agricultural production) and "management-based" (characterising management measures in the agricultural system that are linked to sustainability parameters). They are multidimensional, integrating technical, environmental and socio-economic actors in the process, involve stakeholder engagement in their derivation, and transferable to different production systems, farming practices and scales. These are a transparent, practical tool to monitor the implementation process and support good practice.

Work Package 6 : Network knowledge transfer and outreach

The theme of WP 6 is Network knowledge transfer and outreach, lead by the Knowledge Transfer Coordinator, and supported by the Network Coordinator and CL:AIRE. The outreach strategy targets each audience using appropriate media, which ensures:

  • effective coordination with similar science and technology-based education and training initiatives;
  • communication and engagement with the general public, all sectors and stakeholder interests in the farming, agri-environmental management and sustainable agriculture community;
  • networking and creation of opportunities for future collaboration;
  • a coherent platform to disseminate research and technical outputs from the project and identify future research needs in an integrated way.

This will ensure timely access of the scientific advances and technology innovations from the project to relevant parties.

The activities of the Fellows and Network Project Manager in WP6 include (i) maintaining the interactive network website; (ii) converting scientific results into scientific papers, technical bulletins, newsletters, conference talks and webinars, YouTube videos; (iii) developing the outreach programme; (iv) engaging with other Knowledge Transfer Networks, R&D projects and industry forums to coordinate on training and dissemination, and (iv) holding stakeholder consultation surveys with different European partners and sectors to support the sustainability studies in WP5.

INSPIRATION aims to arrange open days (e.g. via National Science Week initiatives) for parents and schools to visit their facilities, meet the fellows, view experiments, learn about the project concept and role of science in society and broader community. This part of the outreach programme targets to raise public awareness of the underpinning issues, how science is addressing the challenge, the role of education in this field; and encourages children into science careers.

Work package 7 : Network management

The activities of WP7 underlie and support the whole of the INSPIRATION network. Within this, the Network Coordinator and the Network Project Manager work together to ensure effective management and successful delivery of research, training, knowledge transfer, dissemination and outreach for the consortium. They manage and maximise communication within the network and between the consortium and external stakeholder groups, including public audiences. They implement quality control procedures for monitoring and performance review of training provision at fellowship, WP and network-level. They effectively manage arrangements related to recruitment, financial, IP and contractual matters and formal reporting by the network.

Beneficiaries

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