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Last update: May 2021

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CIRCASA project

CIRCASA – Towards an International Research Consortium

CIRCASA – Towards an International Research Consortium
CIRCASA project is at its 3rd year project. At this stage, we are preparing a 2020-2022 implementation plan for the International Research Consortium (IRC) on soil carbon. Current work on a Strategic Research Agenda co-designed with stakeholders, grounded on scientific evidence and stakeholders' knowledge demands will support the alignment of research for this IRC.

The H2020 CIRCASA project, which started in 2017 for a duration of three years, aims to develop international synergies concerning research and knowledge exchange in the field of carbon sequestration in agricultural soils at European Union and global levels, with the active engagement of all relevant stakeholders.

By bringing together the research community, international organizations, governments, CIRCASA takes stock of the current understanding of agricultural soil carbon sequestration research, identifies stakeholder’s knowledge, and research needs and fosters the creation of new knowledge.

A 2020-2025 Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) is being co-designed between different stakeholders and it is grounded on scientific evidence and stakeholder’s knowledge demands previously identified.

Taking stock of the current understanding of carbon sequestration in agricultural soils

Farmers and other Stakeholders

The CIRCASA team has gathered stakeholders’ perspectives on the potential for soil carbon management to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable intensification of agriculture, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focusing on the implementation of SOC sequestration options by identifying and assessing the challenges to – and solutions for – the implementation of SOC sequestration options via regional hubs with stakeholders and regional workshops.

The overarching methodology consisted of a public online survey translated into seven languages and answered by approximately 2000 stakeholders around the world and 10 regional workshops (with common guidelines).

The Survey included:

  1. Management options – current management and effectiveness
  2. Barriers and solutions
  3. Knowledge needs
  4. Contribution to ESS and to sustainable development

Results show general agreement across stakeholder types and regions that economic barriers are most highly ranked, followed by knowledge barriers (e.g. advisory services) and lack of political priority given to SOC.

See CIRCASA deliverable D2.2 - Assessing barriers and solutions to the implementation of SOC sequestration options for more details.

Scientific community

A second online survey designed for the international research community showed that researchers around the world agree on three main themes of challenges limiting the ability to predict soil carbon changes as well as prescribe and adopt the best land management practices. 

  • Understanding Soil processes
  • Managing and monitor soils
  • Socio-economic aspects with a focus on adaptation


See CIRCASA deliverable D1.3 - The science base of a strategic research agenda - Executive Summary for more details and results

This work complemented by a bibliometric study aimed at identifying research gaps and complementary networks which shows how the international community is already working and collaborating served as the science base of the SRA

See CIRCASA deliverable D1.1 - The Network map and dialogue for more details

Co-design a 2020-2025 Strategic Research Agenda to facilitate the establishment of an International Research Consortium on Soil Carbon.

Grounded in scientific evidence and stakeholder's knowledge and research needs, the CIRASA team has developed a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) at EU and global levels. This SRA will support the alignment of research into an International Research Consortium (IRC). At this stage of the project, CIRCASA plans for major breakthroughs on soil carbon sequestration through the International Research Consortium (IRC) on soil carbon focused on the 4 pillars of the SRA:

Pillar 1 – Frontiers research: unlocking the potential of soil carbon

Research collaboration and cross disciplines have the potential to deliver a renewed understanding of soil functions, dynamics, and biodiversity, which together govern soil carbon, soil health, and ecosystem services. To address Pillar 1, CIRCASA foresees international calls and creating bridges with research agencies such as the European Join Program on soils (EJP SOols)


Pillar 2 – Soil carbon monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system

Develop and scale up rapid cost-effective assessment methods for SOC monitoring, reporting and verification. This may involve remote and proximal sensing technologies, but equally important in this context are farm-level monitoring tools and mechanisms, and the potential of crowd-sourcing farm-level data.


framework MRV

Figure 1: Vision for a Global framework published in Global Change Biology (P. Smith et al., August 2019). 


Arrangements with spatial agencies involved in Remote Sensings such as Copernicus, EC Joint Research Center, Group of Earth Observations, Integrated Carbon Observation System, and FAO Global Soil Partnership are planned.

Pillar 3 – Agro-ecological and technological innovations

Fostering Technological innovation through public-private cooperation for example in Plant breeding, Biochar and organic amendments or, Precision agriculture and machinery.

Pillar 4 – Enabling environment and knowledge co-creation

Scaling up soil carbon sequestration activities is a challenge that would need to address a variety of socio-economic barriers and incentives (cultural, social, economic, and political especially for farmers). Understanding financial, policy, and capacity-building mechanisms that are effective and equitable is a key open research gap from various levels, bottom-up to national to international. An international research agenda can stimulate the setting up of these infrastructures, provide an impulse for different ways of working through co-creation methods or more transdisciplinary approaches that involve different stakeholders.

An IRC can pioneer novel technologies and options such as improved root phenotypes, soil carbon inputs from biochar, biogas digestates and organic fertilizers as well as precision agriculture applied to soil carbon. Developing public-private consortia could enhance international cooperation and would be an effective way to foster innovation while developing the European leadership in the field of SOC sequestration. Contacts have been already made with the private sector and the Climate-KIC to see how they could contribute to an IRC for innovation.

This agenda has received feedbacks from CIRCASA partners, members of the 4p1000 initiative Scientific and Technical Committee, the international Technical Panel of soils of the Global Soil Partnership, and the Integrative Research group of the GRA as well as from relevant Commission Services.

   > See CIRCASA Deliverable D3.1: Strategic Research Agenda on Soil Carbon for more information

This IRC has large benefits for stakeholders both in EU and other world regions and this will be thought international research and innovation co-creation to create breakthroughs, avoid duplication and develop innovation at a large scale. For this, the IRC needs to be highly interdisciplinary and guided by stakeholder's demands. This action requires a dedicated tool to carry ambitious international research and innovation programs. 

CIRCASA proposition of the IRC is built upon the 4 pillars of the SRA to develop R&I activities through a portfolio of projects and programs that could be coordinated across regions and across pillars. This implies sharing and develop collaborative knowledge, having the capacity-building, create coordination across institutions and organizations, and have therefore governance.

To implement this IRC, a formal dialog with each partner (research founders, program owners, foundations, private sector) is needed for institutional and financial arrangements in the IRC.




CIRCASA IRC supports stakeholders for international cooperation.


The Open Collaborative Platform developed in the frame of CIRCASA project will support stakeholders by matching their knowledge demands. This tool has been designed to create an open dialog between different stakeholders and allows them to share data and information on soil carbon. 

 Knowledge sharing, capacity building, and matchmaking proposed by the platform are complemented by the current development of a Knowledge Information System (KIS). The KIS could work as a knowledge hub and will reference data and meta-data from different existing repositories in one single place. The platform is accessible at and is completely free.

Register and share your knowledge with the community!

OCP services

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