This article is part of our special report Climate change prevention measures in the new CAP.
Agriculture in the European Union after 2020 must be encouraged to adopt innovative tools to meet growing environmental challenges, but this requires modernisation, money and knowledge, EURACTIV Poland reports.
The European Commission has emphasised the need for greater innovation and new technologies in the EU’s agricultural sector, saying that it must modernise in order to become more effective, competitive and environmentally friendly.
However, when the Commission inventoried the outcomes of research on agriculture and food production, it was found that many technologies are not being implemented due to the fact that farmers do not know about them.
The latest reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2021-2027, therefore, aims to counter this by placing a greater emphasis on technological innovation, digitisation and research and development designed to encourage positive environmental changes.
This would then allow farmers to access additional financing because, under the new CAP, direct payments and their amount will depend not only on the size of the area but also on the farm’s impact on the environment or climate.
Ways in which the new reform will work to support this includes the creation of operational groups which bring together, among others, businesses, administration and experts with the aim of working on creating and implementing innovative solutions for farmers. More than 3,200 of these groups are planned to be set up throughout the EU.
Furthermore, the largest EU research programme, Horizon, which in its new version is to be called Horizon Europe, will also remain an important instrument.
The €10 billion programme will support specific scientific projects and innovations in rural development, organic economy, healthy food production and general support for EU agriculture.
The reform will also look to bolster existing programmes such as BIOEAST, initiated in 2016 by Hungary, designed to aid the management of agriculture, forestry and water resources based on knowledge and principles of bioeconomy, and the Smart Village programme, which involves the introduction of digital solutions in rural areas.
With increased financial support and professional advice, the Commission hopes that EU farmers will be encouraged to use new technologies and invest in them.
It is hoped that these technologies will help increase yields or reduce production costs in the long term, but also help farmers better meet new, more stringent environmental requirements.
For instance, one of the main objectives of the new Commission is to reduce the use of harmful pesticides, with new Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, highlighting the promotion of organic farming as a key aim for the new European Commission in his inaugural speech
Technological innovations offer the possibility to do just that, offering more targeted use of plant protection products which ultimately means using less of the harmful products.
In particular, the use of various sensors on agricultural machinery or in farm buildings allows the collection of a great deal of data on crops, breeding and the entire farm.
One example of this is precision farming, which is quickly becoming widespread. Precision agriculture is the collection of data on the exact shape of arable land or the diversity of crops within a field that uses satellite technology of differential global positioning system (DGPS) allowing for the creation of an accurate “yield map”.
This map, in turn, allows the field to be fertilised and plant protection products to be used in such a way that they can be used as efficiently as possible without polluting the environment with excessive amounts of pesticides. At the same time, higher yields can be obtained at a cheaper cost.
The analysis of this data is also able to ensure the preparation of reports that will show exactly how much and which chemicals are needed to protect crops, helping farmers review and evaluate their business model and take appropriate decisions while ensuring the environment is not polluted.
However, this requires further development of the internet of things, cloud computing and the 5G, which go beyond the CAP.
It was precisely the issue of funds – for the purchase of equipment or training – that blocked the development and, above all, dissemination of new technologies in agriculture (apart from the lack of knowledge about the existing possibilities).
Therefore, the new CAP is to contain more funds for solving this problem in order to achieve more effectively, thanks to innovations, the ambitious environmental objectives the Commission has included in the budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Natasha Foote]