News & Events

In late April ’21 reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) was planted on a partially restored Pb-Zn mine site in NE England using a minimal surface application of PAS100 compost. The site has been monitored on a monthly basis and at the end of June (photo) is showing good germination and establishment on the area seeded. The compost “blanket” approach was selected following the results of previous field trials funded by the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme to use compost blankets to establish reed canarygrass on brownfield sites. The idea at the CERESiS trial is to provide a seed bed for germination without needing to disturb potentially contaminated soil by cultivation or incorporation of organic matter, which would also be difficult in these ground conditions.

The 6-month consortium meeting along with the first External Advisory Board (EAB) Workshop of the CERESiS project took place online on the 21st – 22nd of April 2021. 39 representatives from the CERESiS consortium and 8 EAB members actively participated in these activities, by engaging in thorough discussions around the project.

A presentation of the project’s objectives, structure and actual status was given to the EAB members, followed by a roundtable on its progression and future actions. During the 6-month meeting, the consortium members discussed in detail the progress that has been made this far for each activity and work package. This included the review of EU policies related to contaminated land management and biofuels, the analysis of decontamination and separation/cleaning methods and processes and the preparation of sites following the needs of the project.

The biomass (Arundo donax and Panicum virgatum) with prevalent organic contamination coming from the activities of the ERSAF agency of securing and reclamation of the Site of National Interest "Brescia-Caffaro" will be tested in the CERESiS project for the safe production of clean liquid bio-fuels.

Soils are essential ecosystems that deliver valuable services such as the provision of food, energy and raw materials, carbon sequestration, water purification and infiltration, nutrient regulation, pest control and recreation. Therefore, soil is crucial for fighting climate change, protecting human health, safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems and ensuring food security. Healthy soils are a key enabler to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal such as climate neutrality, biodiversity restoration, zero pollution, healthy and sustainable food systems and a resilient environment.

Soil protection has not been subject to a specific legislative instrument at EU level. There is no binding overarching framework that strategically defines policy priorities or parameters for soil protection. Soil protection outcomes in the other laws are mostly derived as a consequence of delivering environmental objectives that are not explicitly soil focused, such as reducing contamination, offsetting GHG emissions, and preventing other environmental threats. The lack of a comprehensive and coherent policy framework to protect land and soil is a key gap that reduces the effectiveness of the existing incentives and measures and may limit Europe’s ability to achieve future objectives. Hence, a new policy framework is needed because the 2006 EU Soil Thematic Strategy is no longer adapted to the policy context of today and the improved scientific knowledge base, while there is a high risk that the EU will fail its Green Deal and international objectives.

In late November 2020 staff from the University of Strathclyde were able to collect samples of biomass from two existing phytoremediation sites while complying fully with the prevailing UK Government Covid-19 restrictions and an appropriately risk-assessed Safe System of Work. This was possible in the first month of the CERESiS Project because of the surviving trials of Miscanthus and short-rotation coppice willow planted on brownfield sites in 2004-2007 as pioneering field trials and subsequent demonstration sites of the EU Life BioReGen Project (Life 05 ENV/UK/000128). We thank the current site owners for allowing continued access to these scientifically important sites.

Biofuels are a key tool necessary for the decarbonization of transports in the EU and they can be already produced at scale with mature technologies. The responsible production of feedstock for biofuels through well-designed sustainable biomass value chains, can enhance soil health and promote green resilience practices in agriculture, thus serving the objectives of the European Green Deal and fostering the bioeconomy.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 101006717.