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How can circular farming systems mitigate climate change?

A new ERA-NET project (MI BICYCLE) will explore how to use biomass and bioproducts from circular farming systems, consisting of both livestock and crop production, in a way that can not only help mitigate climate change, but also be sustainable for the farmer, the environment and society at large.

Photo: Colourbox

How can circular farming systems help mitigate climate change? And are circular systems more resilient to climate change and better able to adapt at field, farm and landscape level? These are some of the questions the new project "MI BICYCLE - mitigation and adaptation through biomass cycling" will answer.

On 7-9 June, researchers from four European countries met for a kick-off meeting at AU Viborg in Foulum to plan the first phases of the three-year ERA-NET project.

"Here in the Limfjord region, and around the research cluster in Foulum, we really have something to offer in terms of the green transition, where agriculture is linked to biogas, biorefining, energy islands on land, etc. With MI BICYCLE, we will develop and innovate circular systems for crop production and livestock farming, in collaboration with key knowledge partners in Northern and Western Europe. The aim is to explore how we can use biomass and products in new and alternative ways in integrated farming systems, i.e. systems that include both crops and livestock," explains Professor Tommy Dalgaard from the Department of Agroecology, who is part of the major new project.

Circular systems adapt better and pollute less

There are many benefits to circular farming systems, including climate change mitigation, resilience and adaptability, according to Tommy Dalgaard.

"Agriculture in Europe, especially in the north and west of the continent, is very specialised. In general, there is great potential for better integration between crop production and livestock farming. This can help to improve the soil's nutrient balance, which is particularly relevant in the vulnerable catchments of the inner Limfjord, and at the same time we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he explains.

The MI BICYLE project aims to assess alternative uses of biomass and biomass products in integrated crop-livestock systems, either within or between farms, and their impact on the nutrient cycle, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, and agricultural productivity.

Four different regions in Europe

The MI BICYCLE project will focus on four regions in Europe. The selected areas are all dominated by specialised farms.

"Our first task will be to identify what current by-products exist. And then we will introduce alternative and more circular methods of use," says Tommy Dalgaard.

Over the three years of the project, the researchers will develop a methodology to assess the impact of current and alternative uses of biomass and bioproducts. Scenarios combining different uses will also be developed to find the best possible and most acceptable solutions for the project's stakeholders.

"Over the next three years, we will therefore invite different stakeholder groups to field days, produce video material describing successful examples of circular farming systems, and we will produce guides for farmers on the benefits of circular systems in relation to environmental, social and economic issues," explains Tommy Dalgaard.

In addition to plans for how to involve farmers and other stakeholders in the project's activities, it is also planned that the project's results will be used in courses focusing on circularity in agricultural and food systems at undergraduate and graduate level at Aarhus University, Wageningen University, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and École Nationale Supériure Agronomique de Toulouse (INP-ENSAT) to promote learning on a systems perspective on circularity in crop and livestock integration.

More about the project

Collaborating partners Aarhus University, Wageningen University, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), INRAE and Ariege Chamber of Agriculture. 
Funding EU joint programming via Innovationfund Denmark
Amount allocated:  Total budget of €1.4 million, of which €0.327 million for Aarhus University, Department of Agroecology.
Project period: 01.06.2022 – 31.05.2025
Read more https://www.suscrop.eu/funded-projects/3rd-call/mi-bicycle
Contact Professor Tommy Dalgaard, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University. Tel: +45 20706132 or mail: tommy.dalgaard@agro.au.dk