SUstainable Management of FLOriculture in WEstern .. (SUMFLOWER)
SUstainable Management of FLOriculture in WEstern Riviera
Start date: Sep 1, 2010,
End date: Sep 1, 2013
The region of Liguria has more than 12 000 floriculture nurseries, occupying 6 000 ha of farmland and representing 75% of the regionâs agricultural production. Floricultural activities are associated with environmental issues relating to natural resources and the release of pollutants into water, soil and the atmosphere. Ornamental plants are characterised by fast growth, for example, and require a constant supply of chemical nutrients and water. The presence of nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorous in surface water is often associated with problems of eutrophication, while water quality in the area has been compromised by nitrates pollution. Moreover, inefficient use of water by garden nurseries generates conflict with other economic sectors, especially tourism during the summer.
The SUMFLOWER projectâs objective was to create and demonstrate a sustainable management system for floriculture and ornamental horticulture, which embraces the social, economic and environmental sectors and pays close attention to resource consumption, waste and land use. The project aimed to reduce the main environmental impacts of floricultural activities by improving efficiency, while also respecting economic viability. Furthermore, SMEs were assisted in the application of best practices and innovative technologies, to ensure compliance with national and EU environmental regulations.
The SUMFLOWER project demonstrated a number of environmental improvements in the horticultural sector in Liguria, at farm (operational), production, local administrative and European levels. The project worked directly with ten representative floriculture SMEs, utilising 243 500 m2 of agricultural surface (including 32 000 m2 in greenhouses and 103 500 m2 in open fields), with four pilot farms being regularly monitored for biosafety. It also established partnerships between local growers, regional institutions, professional associations, and a University related to flower and ornamentals production in Liguria.
At farm level, the ability to reduce the use of nitrates was demonstrated on a pilot farm and at standard farms. Activities carried out at four pilot farms proved the possibility of reducing the total use of agrochemicals by 20-50%, through the adoption of integrated pest management strategies, while still obtaining perfect floriculture products. An increased use of sustainable growing substrate, deriving from the re-use of green waste (compost) mixed with 20-60% peat, was achieved â effectively reducing the use of peat in growing media. Irrigation demonstrations on nine farms showed that savings of at least 30% of irrigation water for floriculture is possible, through the use of an innovative automated irrigation system developed by the project. Demonstrations on 17 farms involved generating around 20% of their energy from renewable sources. A total of 16 174 kWh was produced from renewable sources on project farms (e.g. photovoltaic technology in greenhouses), equivalent to 8 588 kg less CO2 in the atmosphere. Eight farms were equipped with 25 waste tanks and, during a preliminary survey, waste generated by each farm was assessed; consequently the number of tanks was arranged in order to match each specific farm situation. The project established five sustainable management plans at farm level.
At the production chain level, SUMFLOWER created a number of sustainability indicators per farm: two using Emergy analysis, four by means of Ecological Footprint analysis, five using LCA, and three economic viability indicators. These indicators, derived using innovative methodology (i.e. Emergy and Ecological Footprint analyses), were shown to be valuable tools for the implementation of policies in floriculture, as they revealed resource needs and emissions generated during the floriculture production chain. Reductions in pollution and the use of inputs such as fertilisers, plant protection products, water and energy can provide both environmental and economic benefits.
The project produced a manual with guidelines (over 2 000 copies) addressed to floriculture stakeholders, for achieving a sustainable management of floriculture based on the results from operational and production chain studies. Four technical meetings were organised, each attended by about 50 farmers, which provided knowledge and training on environmental issues, regulation, and technical and management solutions. The project installed three permanent information points: in the Distretto Florovivaistico, CeRSAA and IRF offices.
At the local administrative level, SUMFLOWER developed a database containing information on local economic activities relating to floriculture, to which 124 stakeholders contributed. A decree concerning nitrates and other topics of sustainable agriculture was approved by the Regional Council.
At the European and International level, ten guidelines and best practices publications were drawn up (in Italian and English) to be applied at EU level to boost floriculture sustainable management. More than 100 companies were reached by various dissemination activities (e.g. technical meetings, service delivery, newsletters) and a cooperative consortium (FlorCoop) of over 800 farms involved in producing environmental commercial labels.
SUMFLOWER is helping Italy implement Directive 2009/128/EC on the sustainable use of pesticides by identifying vulnerable areas and, through the projectâs guidelines, the means to reduce pollution from agrochemicals, particularly nitrates. The project results may also contribute to the implementation of the recommendations of the European Commission related to water quality (COM (2012) 673) and help in the preparation of a system of shared indicators for the assessment of agricultural impacts.
The projectâs activities are replicable, particularly in areas of similar climate where flowers are cultivated in Italy or other EU countries (e.g. Greece, Spain), but could also be applied to other production chains (e.g. olive oil, citrus fruits, wine).
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).
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