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INNOFFARENA-Innovasjonsarena for stat og kommune

The Economic Value of Topsoil Ecosystem Services Ecology and life cycle understanding applied to business calculations and economics

Alternative title: Økonomisk verdi av matjordas økosystem tjenester

Awarded: NOK 1.8 mill.

Project Number:

327250

Project Period:

2021 - 2025

Location:

The topsoil is both an asset and an input in food production. The quality of the soil is affecting both yield and nutrition quality. A fertile healthy soil with a high soil organic matter content (SOM) and a rich and bio diverse fauna of microbes is the best and most economic effective way to ensure complete and sufficient nutrition to the plant. This is a result of the natural process in the carbon cycle through the photosynthesis where plants exchange sugars with microbes and get nutrients and trace minerals in return. This ecological intelligent symbiosis is very interesting from a perspective of economic efficiency. The process itself is also very valuable as it builds good soil structure that ensures a good nutrient- and water economy and keeps the carbon in the soil reducing surplus CO2 in the atmosphere. To improve our management of topsoil’s is said to be maybe the most economic effective way to solve our climatic challenges. What kind of economic value does these ecosystem services really have for us both as farmers and society as a whole. The topsoil is the foundation for carbon-based life and the cornerstone of our existence. The economic valuation of the soil needs an upgrade. The science and knowledge about these phenomenon’s are well known in the field of soil science and agronomy but if we are to change our practise to the better we need to expose the economic implications more load and clear. This PhD work will express these ecosystem services in economic terms and present improved business calculations and economic instruments to include their real value in agricultural business accounting and management. The work will also try to present a more complete picture of the economic value of top soil for society as a whole. The thesis uses the Norwegian Research Council project 321097 “Soil health and Carbon capture, DNA mapping of soil life and life cycle economics” as core case study combined with literature study and specially designed research

The content of soil organic matter (SOM) in agricultural topsoil around the world is decreasing (Global Soil Partnership, FAO 2020). The trend in Norway is no different (Riley, NIBIO 2020). This affects the economic performance of the topsoil ecosystem services. To reverse this trend it is necessary to evaluate present business calculations regarding agricultural practice to capture the externalities and hidden costs and to create a more complete economic valuation system regarding the topsoil ecosystem services. The topsoil is by itself an input affecting productivity, both in relation to quantity and quality. Healthy well functioning topsoil is, through the plants photosynthesis and the processes of carbon based lifecycle, is creating the optimal condition for the symbioses between plant roots and microbes. This ecologically intelligent exchange assures the maximum content of nutrition in regards to all nutrients, including all minerals and trace elements accessible in the soil. The process itself is vital to create a good soil structure that affects water economy and environmental resilience to surrounding and interconnected ecosystems. A healthy fertile soil with a high content of SOM and biodiversity of microbes captures excess CO2 from the atmosphere and contribute to reverse the climate problems. The soil science is known but without economic incentives as a result of more precise business accounting, improvements on a large scale are not being made. This thesis aims to define important top soil ecosystem services both on the corporate level and on the national and global level. The PhD work will express these ecosystem services in economic terms and present improved business calculations and economic instruments to include their real value in agricultural business accounting and management. The thesis uses the Norwegian Research Council project 321097 “Soil health and Carbon capture, DNA mapping of soil life and life cycle economics” as core case study.

Funding scheme:

INNOFFARENA-Innovasjonsarena for stat og kommune