Building a European network to advance soil research, monitor soil health and advocate for sustainable land use
BENCHMARKS za opredelitev in uskladitev pristopov spremljanja zdravja tal v Evropi za različne rabe tal

No. of contract:

Type of project:
from 01.01.2023 to 31.12.2027



The challenge

  • 60-70% of soils in Europe are currently considered unhealthy.
  • BENCHMARKS supports the European Commission on its mission to reach “75% of European soils as healthy or significantly improved by 2030” (SH&F mission).
  • Conventional soil monitoring systems measure chemical parameters but disregard a wide range of biological and physical parameters essential to soil health.
  • One-size fits all minimum dataset approaches are often applied in monitoring, which do not account for climatic and land use differences across Europe for soil health assessment.

The objective

The BENCHMARKS’ objective is to build a European network that creates a shared understanding of soil health assessment across a range of land uses and climatic conditions. BENCHMARKS will define how to measure soil health and provide context and spatial scale relevant measurement techniques from field to European scale. Working with multi-stakeholder partnerships, BENCHMARKS aims to contribute to and empower land-use systems, side-by-side with land managers, that promote soil health.

The outcome

Through a multi-scale (local, landscape, national, Europe) and multi-stakeholder process across different land-use types (urban, forestry, agriculture), BENCHMARKS aims to:

  1. Provide a clear, easy-to-use tool for evaluating soil health, that is transparent, harmonized, and cost-effective.
  2. Define appropriate indicators that are relevant to the assessment of soil health for a range of land uses and climatic zones across Europe.
  3. Develop a soil health dashboard appropriate for use at a range of scales (field to European) for agricultural, forestry, and urban settings.
  4. Contribute to improving existing European policies and regulations related to soil health.

The process

BENCHMARKS uses innovative participatory approaches to address the soil health requirements of multiple stakeholders such as land managers, advisors, policymakers, scientific and educational communities and the private sector. Throughout 2023, a series of workshops will take place in 24
landscape case studies across 13 countries in Europe. They will bring together land managers at the local level and diverse stakeholder groups at regional, national and European levels.
The consortium partners will build on existing knowledge, resources and expertise to develop a new framework to understand soil health objectives from stakeholders represented in the different scales. The inclusion and engagement of land managers throughout the project has multiple benefits:
a) The facilitation of an innovative process that combines both scientific and practical knowledge.
b) Ownership creation for research outcomes for land managers.
c) Increased research impact through the integration of diverse opinions.

The consortium

BENCHMARKS brings together a robust pan-European consortium (29 partners) that:

  • Builds upon state-of-the-art scientific advances in the field of soil health and functions in recent years.
  • Provides the needed expertise to work with stakeholders across multiple scales, and diverse range of land-use types, within Europe.
  • Brings the knowledge and experience to ensure the implementation of BENCHMARKS outcomes in policy, private industry and social decision-making.

The BENCHMARK partners are: Wageningen University (WU), Osterreichische Agentur fur Gesundheit und Ernahrungssicherheit (AGES), Climate Farmers (CF), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Commonland Foundation (Commonland) (COM), Universita degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (UNINA), Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Ustav Vyzkumu Globalni Zmeny Av Cr VVI (Global Change Research Institute (CAS), Direção Regional de Agricultura e Pescas do Centro (DRA), Fundacio Privada Ersilia (ERSILIA), BV Exploitatie Reservegronden Flevoland (ERF), Fundacion Regeneration Academy (Regeneration Academy Foundation) (RAF), Greenback (GREEN), Grand Alfred (GRAND), Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement (INRAE), Institut National des Sciences et Industries du vivant et de l’environnement – agroparistech (AgPar) (Affiliated), Universite de Lorraine (ULo) (Affiliated) Stichting International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC), Jozef Stefan Institute (JSI), LUONNONVARAKESKUS (LUKE Natural Resources Institute Finland), Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Masarykova univerzita (MU), Universidade de Coimbra (UC), Stichting Wageningen Research (WR), Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF), Associated partners are: Conservation Education and Research Trust (Earthwatch) (EW) (UK), WCMC LBG (WCMC) (UK), Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FIBL) (CH), Institute for Applied Plant Biology (IAP) (CH).


BENCHMARKS has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation program, licensed as project 101091010.