Innovative orchard management enhances soil fertility, biodiversity and economic sustainability    


“DOMINO” aims at improving the long-term sustainability and the ecological foot print of intensive organic fruit orchards.

It focuses on the interaction of fruit trees with different wild species, organic residues and microbioma and it intends to break the paradigm of monoculture in organic fruit growing, enhancing the ecosystem services.

The innovation is due to the development of new intercropping strategies with different living mulches and legumes and new organic fertilizers. Crop protection will be enhanced by using overhead covering.

The activities are planned in different major fruit production regions, located in continental and mediterranean countries.     


Organic fruits production systems are characterized by a ‘conventionalization’ of the management methods that are frequently reducing biodiversity and depend largely on external inputs to maintain soil fertility and assure plant protection.

There is thus a need to introduce new strategies using multifunctional cover crops which can improve also the economic return of orchards.    

Videos from project

Video on mulching management (English)

Video on mulching management (Italian)

Main project activities

  1. Development of new strategies to manage the space between fruit trees by increasing the biodiversity of the orchards (use of living mulches)
  2. Optimization of fertilisation strategies using regionally available recycling fertilisers and leguminous intercrops to improve nutrient balances and ecosystem services
  3. Understanding and managing the soil fertility to optimize nutrient use of fruit trees, increasing tolerance to diseases
  4. Evaluating partly closed cover systems to support non-chemical pests and diseases control
  5. Assessing potential long-term positive consequences on the environment of the  mixed production systems
  6. Calculating economic impact of the proposed strategies on organic fruit growing systems    

Benefits and results

Expected long-term societal benefits

The  proposed mixed production systems are new methods to tackle current critical issues of organic fruit growers: economic sustainability of the crop, certification-related issues, ecosystem services. The expected wide impact of the project derives also from its cross-disciplinary approach, with a broader applicability to other production systems.

The contribution to make perennial fruit growing more compatible with organic principles could simplify conversion to organic farming increasing the potential for further growth of the sector and reducing the risk for negative environmental impacts. 

Coordinator of DOMINO

  • Davide Neri, Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy,

Implementation and dissemination to target groups

Classic dissemination tools (i.e. website, brochures, workshops) as well as innovative tools (i.e. interactive open days, internet channels, social media and educational videos) are planned to reach and work together with stakeholders (farmers, advisors and their associations).    

CORE Organic Cofund is an ERA-NET funded by the European Commission´s
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Contract No. 727495.