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© Thünen-Institut/AK
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Institute of

AK Climate-Smart Agriculture


CAOS - Climate Smart Agriculture on Organic Soils

Involved Institutes LR Institute of Rural Studies

Impounded drainage channel
© Ulrich Mäck
Impounded drainage channel


Organic soils store a major share of the world's soil organic carbon and have widely been drained for agricultural cultivation, turning them into a strong source of greenhouse gases (GHG). How can Europe's drained organic soils be managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance adapted agricultural use at the same time?

Background and Objective

Controlled drainage and active water management are climate smart options for agricultural production on organic soils under current and future climatic conditions. We propose that wet organic soils can be used as risk insurance in dry periods while active water and soil management will improve trafficability. Peat degradation can be reduced and water availability in dry summers increased. Alternative, wetness-adapted crops with stable yield quantity and quality are needed to meet requirements for food, feed and bioenergy. The CAOS project aims to generate the knowledge to design climate smart agricultural systems for organic soils adapted to the diverse regional conditions of Northern and Central Europe. CAOS will provide and distribute evidence that active management aiming at a better control of groundwater levels, improved trafficability and alternative high productivity crops improves yield stability and quality as well as resilience to climate change while providing GHG mitigation and improved soil and water quality.


The project combines existing agro-economic data from typical study regions of the participating counries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden) with soil quality and water table observations to identify historical evidence of climate smart soil and water management. At the field scale, experiments with soil and water management will be conducted, testing different techniques of controlled drainage and subirrigation combined with greenhouse gas measurements. These measurements will be complemented with agro-economical analysis focussing on management options that allow the continuation of agricultural production in the context of current and possible future agricultural and environmental policies. Quantity and quality analysis of harvested biomass used for food, feed or energy purposes will be performed. The measured field data will be used for the integration of process-based water dynamic and crop growth models, statistical models of greenhouse gas mitigation and water quality and economic models to synthesise results and to evaluate the adaptation potential under climate change scenarios. Bi-directional involvement of stakeholders and practitioners throughout the entire project to facilitate knowledge exchange across countries is the essential part combining all disciplines.


Organic soils store much of the soil's organic matter worldwide and have become major sources of greenhouse gases through drainage and land use. Degradation of soil physical and chemical properties is increasing the risk of crop failure. The joint European project CAOS aimed to generate knowledge to develop climate-friendly and climate-adapted organic soil systems that fit regional conditions in Europe. Subproject A included the management and coordination of the collaborative project, soil mapping and analysis, groundwater level measurement, soil hydrology and plant growth modeling, Europe-wide policy analysis, and the development of future climate-friendly land use strategies for Europe. The project showed that many farmers value organic soils in dry years as risk insurance and are aware of the risks and problems of current management strategies. However, there is a lack of economic incentives and the long-term perspective to establish climate-friendly, wet use on organic soils. Land use is the most important factor influencing the quality of organic soils at European level, and especially low groundwater levels promote soil degradation. Valuable soil functions such as carbon storage are lost. The project was the first to model crops of a Paludiculture species under climate change conditions. This is an important step forward in assessing sustainable land use options on organic soils. Proposed EU LULUCF regulations in the 2030 Climate & Energy Framework as well as the current European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) provide limited incentives for mitigating emissions from organic soils. The project has developed guidelines for a specific organic soil program for the future CAP.

Detailed results were presented in conference contributions: -> publications -> conference-contributions

scientific publications: -> publications -> publications

as well as in:
Final Report at the Technical Information Library


Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • European Union (EU)
    (international, öffentlich)
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    (national, öffentlich)


2.2015 - 1.2018

More Information

Project funding number: 031A543A
Funding program: EU - JPI on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (JPI FACCE)
Project status: finished


  1. 0

    Buschmann C, Röder N, Berglund K, Berglund Ö, Laerke PE, Maddison M, Mander Ü, Myllys M, Osterburg B, Akker JJH van den (2020) Perspectives on agriculturally used drained peat soils: Comparison of the socioeconomic and ecological business environments of six European regions. Land Use Pol 90:104181, DOI:10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.104181

  2. 1

    Dettmann U, Bechtold M, Viohl T, Piayda A, Sokolowsky L, Tiemeyer B (2019) Evaporation experiments for the determination of hydraulic properties of peat and other organic soils: An evaluation of methods based on a large dataset. J Hydrol 575:933-944, DOI:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2019.05.088

  3. 2

    Bechtold M, Dettmann U, Wöhl Lena, Durner W, Piayda A, Tiemeyer B (2018) Comparing methods for measuring water retention of peat near permanent wilting point. Soil Sci Soc Am J 82(3):601-605, DOI:10.2136/sssaj2017.10.0372

  4. 3

    Buschmann C, Osterburg B, Röder N (2018) Low emission alternatives for agriculturally used drained peat soils: which factors determine the land use options in dependence of socio-economic settings in three European regions? : Vortrag anlässlich der 58. Jahrestagung der GEWISOLA (Gesellschaft für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften des Landbaues e.V.) "Visionen für eine Agrar- und Ernährungspolitik nach 2020", Kiel, 12. bis 14. September 2018. GEWISOLA, 12 p

  5. 4

    Osterburg B, Röder N (2017) Impacts of the EU Common Agricultural Policy and the EU climate policy on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from drained peat soils. In: Renewable resources from wet and rewetted peatlands : September 26th-28th 2017 ; Greifswald, Germany. Greifswald: PALUDI Culture, p 80

  6. 5

    Buschmann C, Osterburg B, Röder N (2017) Low emission alternatives for agriculturally used drained peat soils: which factors determine the land use options in dependence of socio-economic settings in six European regions? Rapp Sveriges Lantbruksuniv 17: 18

  7. 6

    Buschmann C, Osterburg B, Röder N (2017) Perspectives for agriculturally used drained peat soils: comparison of the soil economic and ecologic business environment of six European countries. In: Renewable resources from wet and rewetted peatlands : September 26th-28th 2017 ; Greifswald, Germany. Greifswald: PALUDI Culture, p 59

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