SusCrop- ERA-NET

Cofund on Sustainable
Crop Production



Back to the Future: reintegrating land and livestock for greenhouse gas mitigation and circularity


The widespread reintroduction of crops and livestock could make a major contribution to the development of the wider EU circular (agricultural) economy and contribute to sustainable growth, through the more effective recycling of materials and resources, the minimization of waste, and a reduction in external supplies of feed and synthetic fertilizers, with potential biodiversity, environmental and soil health benefits. However, this comes with significant challenges, including the potential for enhanced GHG emissions, particularly methane emissions, from enteric fermentation, land degradation due to over grazing and water pollution as well as the need to effectively substitute all/most inorganic fertilizers with organic manures. Organic amendments applied to land could conversely result in enhanced GHG emissions, particular nitrous oxide emissions, unless these are managed appropriately and the necessity to store large amounts of organic manures/wastes may also be problematic, given their links to environmental pollution and GHG emissions. Additional complications could arise due to associated modifications in land use, including a shift from a grass-based to a forage/alternative crop-based diet, altered grazing practices and increased competition between food and animal feed or the use of biogas or bioenergy crops. Another key issue is the economic consequences of reintroducing livestock and whether the necessary incentives are available for them to be taken up by farmers. Whilst mixed farming systems were previously common and economically viable, new developments will require them to be matched with current production and market conditions and the availability of suitable value chains and business models to ensure their long-term viability.

To address this, we have assembled a multi-actor inter-disciplinary research team, with wide ranging expertise in the whole animal-crop supply chain and its environmental impact, which will take a holistic approach to the sustainable reintegration of livestock and cropping systems. Particular attention will be directed at livestock type and management (WP2), the appropriate use and storage of manures (WP2), crop choice, including direct grazing of crops and/or their residues, the use of afforestation/agroforestry (WP4) as an alternative grazing option and to increase soil carbon, as well as and how this information can be integrated into decision support tools for identifying the best options for farmers (WP5). Importantly, we will assess the use of alternative livestock dietary feed sources that have the potential to reduce enteric methane production coupled with novel investigations on a mechanistic assessment of the ability of soils to oxidise methane, and how this information can be utilized to improve whole farm methane budgets. Critical to this approach is an ability to monitor and validate any management options (WP6) on the net GHG budgets and their economic consequences (WP7), as well as the effective dissemination of the results for practical implementation by policy makers, stakeholders, farmers and other end users (WP8). Stakeholder engagement will play an important role in realising the benefits of any modifications that are identified to increase circularity whilst also minimizing the environmental footprint of mixed farming systems. All this will feed into a project-specific data repository (WP1) and, together with the identification of management options that avoid the negative impacts of livestock integration, will have benefits beyond the lifetime of the project.

Source: Bruce Osborne, UCD

Source: Bruce Osborne, UCD


Prof. Bruce Osborne
University College Dublin, IRELAND


Project Manager

Dr Ibrahim Khalil
University College Dublin/Prudence College, Dublin, IRELAND



Dr. Katja Klumpp
French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE), FRANCE

Dr. Bart Kruijt
Wageningen University, THE NETHERLANDS

Dr. Pia Gottschalk
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, GERMANY

Dr. Gerado Moreno
Universidad de Extremadura, SPAIN

Mr. Otso Valta
Avoin association, FINLAND

Dr. Anna Walkiewicz
Institute of Agrophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, POLAND

Dr. Lea Hallik
University of Tartu, ESTONIA

Prof. Laurence Shalloo
Agriculture and Food Development Authority – Teagasc, IRELAND

Dr. Tony van der Weerden

Dr. Jorge Perez-Quezada
University of Chile, CHILE

More information

Project webpage: