Work packages

WP 1

The management of the project is assured by a structure formed by the coordinator (CO), the workpackage managers (WPM) and the WP participants (WPP). Within a WP, a task leader leads each task. All project participants are part of the General Assembly (GA). The CO is responsible for project management and administration, thus facilitating the project development, monitors the resources, controls the quality of the outcomes and enables a secured flow of information among partners. 

The CO shall ensure that the project reaches its objectives and that its outcomes are in-line with the work plan in terms of milestones and deliverables as well as for the planned resources. The management activities include: (a) establishing a consortium agreement with all partners, (b) ensuring efficient collaboration within the team and that all participants comply with contractual obligations, (c) acting as the contact point between the DOMINO consortium and Core Organic secretary, (d) facilitating within-project communication i.e., project website, kick-off meeting, project meetings and exchange visits among partners, (e) organization of the report on project implementation, the interim and the final reports (f) assuring the financial soundness for payments and reporting to EC, (g) coordinating the logistics for meetings and internal communication (within and between WPs); (h) applying procedures to ensure quality and conformity to EC and consortium agreement requirements.

The WPMs report to the coordinator and are responsible for all tasks in their respective WPs. The WPMs guarantee that all milestones and deliverables are provided on time, and prepare the scientific WP reports for delivery to the Co. The Co monitors the effective and efficient implementation of the project and makes a report to GA. WPPs, under the supervision of the WPM, will contribute to (a) the specific tasks within each work package, (b) scientific reporting on their activities to the WPM, (c) peer-reviewed publications, and (d) project meetings.

The day-to-day administrative and financial management of the project is assured by a specific group of staff at UPM which will form a network with the respective staff from all other partners, to ease the communication particularly related to financial reporting and to logistic issues. Project monitoring of administrative and financial activities, including a follow up on spent resources, will be carried out at the annual meetings, which results will be used for risk management and to take decisions on possible changes and in fine-tuning the planned activities.

WP1 coordinates also the scientific approach to methodology, standardizing the different experimental layouts and data analyses.   

WP 2

An initial comprehensive analysis of the state of the art for the different crops and agronomical aspects addressed in the project is the goal of Task 1 in this WP (Analysis of the state of the art). The analysis will consider the status quo of plant nutrition, soil management, plant protection in relation to partly covered systems, biodiversity, economic impact and dynamics of sod mulching.  The analysis will be paralleled by performing a questionnaire-based survey and regional workshops with stakeholders on technical options proposed by the project (Task 2.2 - Multi-stakeholder approach). The obtained information will be used for the adaptation of the technologies to be tested and to create a database of current practices in the different project regions. At the end of the project, final workshops will be also organized in all regions to discuss the project results, the problems encountered and further development of the strategies defined. 

However, the major effort of the WP is to perform an effective and efficient spread of the project results to the widest possible number of interested stakeholders (Task 2.3 Dissemination). The dissemination will be used to demonstrate the practices, methods and new technologies developed, as well as to contribute to an establishment of transnational networks of stakeholders in organic fruit growing.

Beside the project website and a flyer useful for attracting attention of stakeholders potentially interested in the project topics and outcomes, several dissemination activities are planned:

- A newsletter will be edited twice a year to report the development of the project to the major stakeholders.

- A brochure containing the concepts of integrated soil management and the major benefits of new technologies will be edited in partner languages for farmers and advisors.

- Trials carried out in all six countries will be used to organize at least two open field days during the project.

- Workshops and seminars or other events will be used to present and discuss the project results.

- New dissemination methods, such as shooting of some short video clips, the participation to radio/TV programs, the use of social media will be adopted.

- Scientific and technical papers will be published on open access journals or specialized magazines.    

WP 3

This WP will focus on row and inter-row management methods that can be used to improve crop financial return, weed control, yield and quality of main and second crops. Two fruit species will be tested (apricot and apple) with several row managements depending on the trial regions. The soil management practices will be evaluated regarding their effects on biodiversity, crops physiology, yield and quality and soil fertility. The crops to be added in the fruit orchards will be diverse for each region. Trials with comparison of different living mulching for row management will be established, including the tillage (reduced/intensive) control treatments. All partners involved in the field trials will document the on-farm costs of the agronomic practices as well as current practice.

Trials for row and inter row management with legume intercrops are the activities planned under Task 3.2.

Special emphasis will be on legume intercrops that, beside increasing the orchard biodiversity, will function as an internal source of N and soil fertility, associated with new fertility management and living mulching. Inter row comparison of: service crops for 1) biodiversity improvement for soil protection; 2) beneficial effects of biodiversity on entomofauna; 3) nutrient balance improvement (e.g. grain legumes for increasing N availability). The impact on the cropping system among all crops and regions will be assessed using a standard grain legume and a standard small seeded legume (e.g. white clover) in all trial regions. Other, more regionally adapted legumes, will be also added. Intercrop biomass input will be measured, as well as C and N in the above ground biomass will be determined and the impact on crop yield and quality will be assessed.

The trials with different living mulching using several species in tree rows may change fruit species root architecture and thus plant resilience to abiotic and abiotic stresses. Such assumption is the base for the activities planned in Task 3.3 (Tests on the effect of living mulching on fruit trees root growth and belowground interactions

and soil density in the superficial soil layer). Root architectural adjustment may be an alternative type of morphological plasticity with the potential to increase resource capture. Lengthening the lifespan of a root may be just as effective for a plant as growing a new cohort of roots and potentially less expensive in terms of plant resources. The experiments will highlight how the ability to occupy space depends on several root characteristics, including relative growth rate, root biomass, and root survivorship, illustrating that root abundance alone is insufficient to explain the potential for nutrient uptake and the need for higher soil biodiversity in agroecosystems. 

WP 4

The goal of this WP is to develop new fertilisation strategies in organic fruit orchards with a holistic approach based on the use of new organic fertilizers from recycled materials, leguminous intercrops in the inter-row and microbial consortia. New fertilisation strategies will be developed and an integral assessment of their impact on agronomic parameters, nutrient budgets and nutrient efficiencies (soil fertility, cross interaction with associated practices, main and secondary crops yield and quality) will be performed. Some incubation trials will study nitrogen dynamics of various organic fertilizers with the aim to find fast nitrogen releasing substances that could be used in organic agriculture at the beginning of the season, when the nitrogen demand is higher. The fertilizers should derive from regional by-products, to reduce the waste production and to increase the recycling of substances and materials, as suggested by the circular economy.

The field trials will take place in Bulgaria, Poland and Germany in intensive apple orchards.

In WP 4.1. products based on mycorrhizal fungi and rhizosphere bacteria as well as clover grass pellets, clover grass silage, legume grits, biogas digestates and leaf applications of compost-based products will be tested. N dynamics will be assessed via Nmin analyses. Sulphur dynamics depending on fertilization strategy and crop protection will also be determined and nutrient efficiencies will be calculated. The impact of the fertilisers on yield, fruit quality and plant health will be evaluated.

The fertilisation strategies developed in Task 4.1. will be tested also with on-farm-trials in cooperation with the different regional organic association (e.g. FÖKO for Germany) and the local extension services (Task 4.2). We aim to adapt these fertilization strategies to “real-world” conditions in cooperation with the participating farmers. These farmers will choose which of the different fertilization strategies they want to use within their farming system. Common soil and plant parameters will be assessed. The target crop is apple.

The thoroughly evaluation of data gathered in all field trials of WP4 will be carried out and allow an integrated assessment of the plant agronomic and soil parameters, reflecting results from the trials performed in different climates, soils and environments across the six European countries (Task 4.3). This task will allow a qualitative ‘mapping’ of the local relevance, quality and agronomic impact of regionally available waste material fertilizers and legumes as well as their effectiveness and usefulness in fertilization management for different organic perennial cropping systems. The methods applied for this task include nutrient budgeting, nutrient flow analyses, statistical analyses and scenario development.

WP 5

The aim of this WP is to evaluate overhead covering applied to grape, apple, apricot and cherry trees. The sustainability of the organic agriculture will be enhanced through an innovative overhead covering, patented and already commercially available.

In the cases of apple and apricot the cover system are physical barriers that protect the plants from the top against rain water, and from the sides-bottom against pests. The waterproof roof net has a mesh size of 3 x 3 micron and allows to keep dry the leaves and avoid fungi diffusion. The target is to reduce scab, brown rot, sooty blotch, sooty mold, Alternaria, Marssonina, Gleosporium and all the main fungal infections that cause yield losses in the pre- and post-storage. On the sides the nets have a 4 x 2,3mm mesh size and contribute to avoid/reduce the main insects’ damage; as an example, for the apple trees, could be the codling moth damages reduction. For the vineyard only the top protection will be implemented, because the pest threats are currently well managed with the existing technologies.

The nets are obviously influencing the microclimatic conditions of the trees canopy, thus parameters like temperature, moisture, precipitations and leaf wetness will be collected by two different climatic stations, the first one positioned under the nets, the second one out of it. The efficacy of this system will be evaluated through multiple parameters, like Kg/tree produced, dimension of the fruits, color, ripeness, sugar content, firmness, and quality pre- and post-storage and mineral substances content.

The use of the overhead cover system should allow to drastically reduce the use of chemical treatments and thus the environmental impact. For this reason, we will provide a comparison between the carbon footprint of an orchard treated with organic treatments versus an orchard protected by the plastic nets, in order to determine the environmental costs of the overhead covering production and use. Finally, the economic analysis of the costs-benefits will be provided, as this is a fundamental aspect to consider for the farmers who would like to switch to the nets protection system.

WP 6

The added value of the different strategies will be appraised in terms of eco-services and biodiversity improvement, considering soil microbiota and mesofauna, entomofauna and flora diversity. This is the goal of WP6.

Through a holistic approach, ultimately aiming at the overall agro-ecosystem economic and ecological sustainability, the adjustment and fine tuning of the proposed innovations will be evaluated at farm level, using indicator-based evaluation systems (Task 6.1: Eco-services appraisal and assessment of biodiversity improvement). The output of this WP will be a comprehensive assessment of validated innovative soil management strategies for the different pedo-climatic regions and production systems vis-à-vis farmers‘ perspective.

The activities of this WP will allow obtaining data useful for the optimization of management recommendations for agricultural sustainability in terms of conservation and implementation of fertility, biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as prevention of pests spreading, which will be used in developing the soil improvement strategy. 

In parallel, the economic impact of the new orchard management methods will be assessed first at on-farm level, which is a basic condition for adoption into practice (Task 6.2: Economic assessment). The economic assessment of profitability of new management systems will be carried out by establishing typical farm models for the different climatic regions based on current management system. A scenario analysis for typical farm models – adoption of innovative systems – will be developed. The cost of production and profits with current and with new methods will be compared. The experiences from pilot implementation in farmer fields during the project period will be used to model the changes in the production systems as compared to typical current farmer practice, based on a complete set of price and quantity data of the farm. This allows considering explicitly the effects of changed soil management practices on all aspects of farm assets and operations.

A second economic assessment will consider the potential external costs and benefits of the improved soil management systems. The evaluation on externalities due to innovative soil management strategies will be carried out in terms of environmental benefits through reduction in water contamination, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. This will provide data to policy makers about the effects that modified/improved crop systems have on the environment and human health, necessary to support national and EU policies.