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CarbOnFarm - Life12 ENV/IT/719

spandimento sostanza organica in campo

The planning of LIFE CarbOnFarm project grounds on the concepts of LIFE+ Environment Policy & Governance, as outlined  in the Indicative favoured actions for the thematic "Soil" :

"Developing  and  implementing  land  use  practices  and  techniques,  particularly  in farming and forestry production processes, which protect and improve the status of soil in terms of structure, organic matter, pollution, biodiversity, etc. This might include supporting farmers and foresters through pilot agro-environmental schemes, different types of environmental friendly agricultural management and technologies, reduction of residues coming from agriculture, etc"

(See on: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/funding/lifeplus2013/call/index.htm)

Therefore the LIFE CarbOnFarm project intend to demonstrate what are the basic requirements for a sustainable use of agricultural soils. The restoration and preservation of soil functions, the enhancement of the economic and environmental role of soil resources in the agro-ecosystems and the valorization of agricultural biomasses recycling are the main area of concern. The proposal is tailored on the non-livestock farms of agricultural areas of Southern Europe characterized by limited access to renewable OM sources, the progressive decline of SOM content and soil fertility, with a potential increase of soil erosion and a steady requirement of high energy inputs.

Project updates

  • Progress Report Covering the project activities from 01/07/2013 to 28/02/2015 (Reporting Date 16/03/2015) (pdf 119 Kb)
  • Inception Report (Covering the project activities from 01/07/2013 to 28/02/2014) - pdf 152 Kb
  • Progress Report (Covering the project activities from 01/07/2013 to 28/02/2015) - pdf 119 Kb
  • MIDTERM Report (Covering the project activities from 01/07/2013 to 31/12/2015)

Project actions

  • An important target of the project is to promote the productive and economical valorization of residual biomasses from the local agricultural activities to reach a high quality compost, achieved also with the adoption of on-farm composting facilities (Action B.1). As a concurrent objective, the application of eco-friendly green chemistry product will strengthen the in situ sequestration of SOC with a further stabilization of SOM (Action B.2). These activities will meet the main goal of the project which is the improvement of SOM quantity and quality in agricultural soils. This will be achieved through the application of environmental sustainable methods of SOM managements in typical regional farming systems (Action B.3). This action will promote the sequestration of SOC and the restoration of SOM function thereby involving a decrease of GHG emissions and combining the maintenance of crop productivity with lower energetic inputs.
  • The adoption of specific monitoring actions (Actions C.1, C.2, C.3, C.4, C.5, C.6) will make available the application of suitable approaches for the acquisition of a large array of data concerning the SOC quantity and quality, GHG emission from cultivated soils, soil stability, crop productivity as well as the environmental, energetic and economical sustainability of the applied methodologies. These indicators may represent an important tool to support the decisional processes at both Regional and European level and it represent a chiefly target objective advised by EU Soil Thematic Strategy in particular for the cultivated lands of Mediterranean area (EC DG Environment 2011 Soil organic matter management across the EU –best practices, constraints and trade-offs http://ec.europa.eu/environment/soil/publications_en.htm).
  • The dissemination of the project's activities and results (Actions D.1, D.2, D.3, D.4, D.5, D.6)  is aimed to act as suitable way to demonstrate that the application of sustainable SOM managements, may efficiently combine environmental protection with crop productivity, thereby highlighting the potential of recycled biomasses as important local bioresources in terms of C sequestration, maintenance of soil functions and prevention of landfill deposition.

Implementation Actions

The demonstrative activities are based on soil addition with high quality compost derived through the recycling of local agricultural residues. In the project sites located in Campania, which territory is  characterized by the scarcity of suitable organic sources, the compost will be obtained by on farm composting facilities. In farm sites of Piemonte the compost will be produced in external composting plan by using the available organic biomasses represented by solid fraction from anaerobic digestion of cattle slurry. The innovative activities are focused on the in-situ SOM stabilization by soil addition with biomimetic catalyst that will strengthen the in situ long term sequestration of Soil Organic Carbon.

B.1 Set up of a composting plant and transfer of 'on farm' composting technologies

Project Responsible Terra Orti D. Esposito (desposito@terramore.net)
Technical Management UNIBAS Dr. G. Celano (giuseppe.celano@uniba.it)

This action is focused in the adoption of prototype composting plan for the on-farm compost production. The plant will be composed of the following parts: area for raw materials storage; active compost pad; curing pad; cured compost storage (completed compost) and leachate detention pond. The plant will be provided also of an irrigation system, an automatic control of temperature and oxygen levels and a data logger for the automatic registration of climatic parameters. All equipment will be powered by solar energy (solar panels).

B.2 Set up of laboratory facilities for the production of biomimetic catalyst

Project Responsible CERMANU Prof. A. Piccolo (alpiccol@unina.it), Dr. F. Sannino (fsannino@unina.it)

This action represents the application of innovative technologies based on green chemistry products  for the improvement of SOC sequestration in agricultural soils. The concept is to promote the stabilization of SOM throughout the chemical coupling of humic components into larger molecular weight materials. The increasing amount of energy rich intermolecular interactions will result in a larger bio-recalcitrance of organic components and in a decrease of mineralization processes. In particular, current chemical technologies involving biomimetic catalysts, such as biocompatible metal-porphyrins, that mimic the activity of the heme prosthetic group of oxidative enzymes, may be employed in the oxidative couplings of phenoxy radicals thereby promoting an effective oligo-/poly-merization of natural aromatic components, such as lignin derived molecules, in soil humic substances. This action will provide a methodology to produce the biocompatible metal porphyrin rings in reliable and cost effective way and the consequent application to soil plots of the water soluble biomimetic catalyst

B.3 Set up of project sites

Project Responsible CERMANU Dr. R. Spaccini (riccardo.spaccini@unina.it)

This action provides the application of proposed SOM management at farm scale. The set-up of project sites is planned from the second to the fifth year of project. Both at Campania and Piemonte region, two project sites will be set: one at a commercial farms and one at public farms of involved universities The SOM management strategies intended as demonstrative, such as compost application, will be applied at both commercial and University farms, while the innovative strategies (providing the use of Fe-porphyrins) will be applied only at the University farms.

Farming sites of LIFE CarbOnFarm Project


Castel-Volturno experimental farm, University of Napoli (41° 3' N 13°59' E)

application of on-farm compost (10 and 20 t ha-1) and biomimetic catalyst (5 kg ha-1) on maize crops - Technical Management CERMANU Dr. V. Di Meo (dimeovin@libero.it) Dr. Vincenza Cozzolino (vincenza.cozzolino@libero.it)

OP Terra Orti (SA): application of on-farm compost (see Action B.1) on fruit-tree orchard (10 and 20 t ha-1) - Technical Management: Terra Orti (desposito@terramore.net) UNIBAS (giuseppe.celano@uniba.it )


1) Tetto Frati experimental farm, University of Torino, (44°53' N, 7°41'E): application of compost from anaerobic digestion of cattle slurry (10 and 20 t ha-1) and biomimetic catalyst (5 kg ha-1) on maize crops

2) Technical Management: AGOSELVIT Dr. L. Zavattaro (laura.zavattaro@unito.it), Dr. C. Bertora (chiara.bertora@unito.it),

Monitoring actions

C.1 Monitoring of composting processes and characterization of compost quality

Beneficiary Responsible UNIBAS Dr. A. Palese (assunta.palese@unibas.it)
Technical Management: CRA-ORT Dr. C. Pane (catello.pane@entecra.it); CERMANU Dr. R. Spaccini (riccardo.spaccini@unina.it); AGROSELVIT Dr. L. Petruzzelli (laura.petruzzelli@unito.it)

The composition of organic residues during composting processes and the quality of the compost materials used in the project sites will be evaluated with the following analysis:

  • Total organic carbon (TOC) and nitrogen (N) content, lignin, phosphorous, heavy metals;
  • detailed molecular characterization of OM quality provided by FTIR sprectroscopy, 13C solid state CPMAS NMR spectroscopy, off-line pyrolysis GCMS
  • 13C and 15N isotopic content;
  • pH, electrical conductivity;
  • phytotoxicity, by testing with Lepidium sativum and plants that will be cropped during the project;
  • maturity, by measurement of the microbial respiration and total hydrolase activity, β-glucosidase activity and catabolic biodiversity by Biolog Ecoplate;
  • evaluation of suppressive propriety by testing ability of the compost to control soil-borne fungi, as Rhizoctonia solani and Sclerotinia minor, on Lepidium sativum
  • microbial density of total bacteria and fungi

C.2 Monitoring of soil organic carbon stabilization and the improvement of physical and biological soil fertility

Beneficiary Responsible CERMANU Dr. R. Spaccini (riccardo.spaccini@unina.it)
Technical Management: AGROSELVIT Dr. L. Petruzzelli (laura.petruzzelli@unito.it ) ; CRA-ORT Dr. R. Scotti (riccardo.scotti@entecra.it); UNIBAS Dr. G. Celano (celano.giuseppe@gmail.com).

This action will provide the indicators of the effects produced by the proposed strategies on quantity and quality of SOM at each project site; the variation of SOM will be assessed with the following measurements:

  • TOC and N content;
  •  water stable aggregates distribution (WSA), aggregate stability (MWDw) and TOC of soil aggregates
  • isotopic analysis (13C-OC content) of bulk soils and soil aggregates;
  • off-line pyrolysis GCMS;
  • phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA)

(for a detailed working protocol see the corresponding task on project deliverables)

C.3 Monitoring of the agronomical, phytopathological and practical sustainability of proposed strategies

Beneficiary Responsible CRA-ORT Dr. M. Zaccardelli (massimo.zaccardelli@entecra.it)
Technical Management: AGROSELVIT Dr. C. Bertora (chiara.bertora@unito.it); CERMANU Dr. V. Cozzolino (cozzolino.vincenza@libero.it); UNIBAS Dr. A. Palese (assunta.palese@unibas.it)

The question addressed in this action is whether the adoption of the SOM management strategies, besides reaching the overall objective of stabilizing soil organic carbon, are sustainable in terms of cropping systems, crop yields and quality

(for a detailed working protocol see the corresponding task on project deliverables)

C.4 Monitoring of greenhouse gases emissions

Beneficiary Responsible CERMANU (riccardo.spaccini@unina.it)
Technical Management: AGROSELVIT Dr. C. Bertora (chiara.bertora@unito.it); UNIBAS Dr. G. Celano (celano.giuseppe@gmail.com); Terra Orti Dr. D. Esposito (desposito@terramore.net).

This task group will involve the fluxes measurements for CO2 and N2O emissions for compost matrices and for the field plots of the farming sites involved in the project. Both CO2 and N2O have been recognized as the most important sources of GHG from agricultural soils. The measurements of CO2 and N2O soil fluxes will be performed in order to obtain data with high temporal resolution. Soil CO2 and N2O emissions will be measured in the farming sites, for the different applied SOM management practices, during the crops cycle and also between each crops cycle for the demonstrative fields with annual crops. 

C.5 Monitoring the environmental and economical sustainability of proposed strategies

Beneficiary Responsible AGROSELVIT Prof. C. Grignani (carlo.grignani@unito.it
Technical Management: CERMANU Dr. V. Cozzolino (cozzolino.vincenza@libero.it); UNIBAS Dr. A. Palese (assunta.palese@unibas.it); TerraOrti Dr. I. Doto (idoto@terramore.net)

Environmental sustainability of proposed strategies will be monitored through the following tools:

  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
  • emergy evaluation
  • carbon footprint

The economic sustainability will be evaluated comparing the cost for crop management for the proposed strategies with the conventional management techniques previously adopted. The indicators will be evaluated setting up flux models for each production chain scheduled in the implementation action (B.3): compost-plant yield; catalyst-plant yield

The environmental sustainability will include the interaction with the monitoring action on composting processes and compost quality (action C.1).

The Life Cycle Assessment is conceived for the analysis of all the fluxes of energy and matter forming each production chain, in order to evaluate conceivable solutions to reduce the environmental impacts detected in the critical phases of the system. For this determination will be used the updated version of software GaBi4.

LCA will also determine the energetic efficiency of first and second order and the analysis of the green house gases.


CERMANU - The Interdepartmental Centre for Research on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance for Environment, Food, Agro-ecosystems and Innovative Materials. University of Naples Federico II.

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