In order to ensure food security in Austria, fertile soils are required in sufficient quantities. In the course of the project, the most fertile soils in Austria were identified and presented. The influence of climate change was also taken into account, which can lead to a dramatic reduction in the yield capacity of soils, especially in the eastern production areas. The results of the project can serve as an important basis for an optimization of spatial planning and a reduction of the loss of valuable agricultural land.
The unbroken high resource input of economic processes leads to a constant consumption of soils that could serve food production. There is still no information on how much soil would be required for agricultural production in Austria in order to ensure the supply of food for the Austrian population and to be largely independent of imports. The aim of this project was to develop a method to characterize and represent valuable agricultural production areas, also taking into account future climatic and demographic developments. These specifications should serve as an argumentation tool for the protection of agricultural soils and help to limit the consumption of agricultural soils, which will benefit food security.
The most fertile soils in Austria play a key role in food security. The identification of these most fertile soils was based on both soil mapping and financial soil estimation data. Based on selected parameters, the yield potentials available throughout Austria (subdivided into three classes) were determined by means of queries in the overall data sets and presented in the form of maps. In addition, valuable agricultural production areas were determined at the level of small production areas. For this purpose, soil estimation data were used and a regional threshold value (regional soil climate number) was calculated as a reference value for the nomination.
In parallel, yield modeling in arable land and grassland was used to record both the current and future yield situation of Austria resulting from a changing climate. Due to the effects of climate change on the production potential of soils in Austria, it can be assumed that the dependence on imports for agricultural products for food security will increase. The results obtained support the long-standing demand for a reduction of the still high consumption of soil and the definition of targets with concrete figures.
In this context, the concept of valuable agricultural production areas developed on the basis of soil quality could be an important tool for spatial planning in order to also give more weight to food security. In addition to the identification and labeling of valuable agricultural production areas, a number of other measures to improve the supply situation are conceivable, although these were not scientifically addressed in this project. In any case, an adjustment of crop rotation and cultivation times, the selection of heat- and drought-tolerant varieties, the securing of water supply in arid regions, but also a possible change of nutritional habits should be mentioned.
The project has underpinned the importance of soil as a resource for food security and has produced concrete solution steps to secure this production basis, such as the development of the concept or the definition of valuable agricultural production areas. The above-mentioned measures should certainly be seen in the context of the global networking of agricultural production and trade and could be considered in further studies with regard to their effectiveness potential and implementation possibilities. Irrespective of this, however, measures should urgently be taken to significantly reduce the use of agricultural land.
Benefit of the project
The results of the project were presented at press conferences, events and exhibitions. This has succeeded in placing the topic of "soil consumption" even more firmly in the public debate. In addition, the tools developed can be used to designate valuable soils within the framework of spatial planning measures.
Project acronym: BEAT
Project management AGES: Dr. Andreas Baumgarten, Institute for Sustainable Plant Production Project partners: Federal Environmental Agency, Federal Office of Water Management, Federal Research and Training Center for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape, Technisches Büro Rodlauer, HBLFA Raumberg Gumpenstein, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences
Funding: the project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management.
Project duration: 2015-2018
Last updated: 03.07.2023