Out of 19 applicants from nine countries, the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO) awards Mr Zvone Černelič from Slovenia for his outstanding contribution to the development of agricultural practice protecting the soil and the environment. This is the first time in 15 years that a Slovenian project has won this prestigious award.
Photo left: Screenshot of the Land and Soil Management Award winner proclamation by the Commissioner Mr Virginijus Sinkevičius | Author Primož Černelič
Photo right: Land and Soil Management Award winner Zvone Černelič | Author Mateja Jordovič Potočnik
The European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Mr Virginijus Sinkevičius, presented the award. During his speech, he stressed the importance of soil protection to ensure food security and biodiversity, and the importance of common action to reduce the impact on climate change. Soil occupies a central place in European strategies (the European Green Deal, the Biodiversity Strategy and the Farm to Fork Strategy). The guidelines outlined in these strategies are strongly echoed in legislative proposals made by the European Commission in relation to the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy. When announcing the winner of the competition, the Commissioner said that the Biodynamic Farm Černelič had received the award for improving soil biodiversity and the organic matter content, which increase soil fertility and climate change resilience of farms.
The president of the expert jury and a European soil expert and researcher at the University of Vienna, Prof. Martin Gerzabek, emphasized that organic farming, the farm’s technological innovations in irrigation and greenhouse cultivation, and the improvement of soil fertility and biodiversity convinced the jury. They were particularly impressed by the description detailing the regeneration of soil in Krška vas, which had been severely damaged by construction works. Ms Vesna Čuček from the agricultural advisory service at Celje Agriculture and Forestry Institute provided the farm owner with invaluable advice on soil regeneration.
Mr Černelič’s farm in Dečno selo near Brežice has been practising organic farming since 2003. They obtained the DEMETER certification in 2014, ensuring that they apply the principles of biodynamic farming in the cultivation of their crops. They stopped ploughing the soil in greenhouses 25 years ago and the soil in other arable fields more than 10 years ago. They use special rippers-subsoilers for conservation tillage. They fertilise the soil with biodynamic compost made of farmyard manure, use biodynamic preparations and sow biodiverse green manure mixtures, which increase the organic matter in the soil and contribute to its ability to provide a carbon sink. Their farming helps to enhance the biodiversity of the soil and the farm as a whole, and to improve the environment and water and air quality.
They share their knowledge and experience with consumers, farmers and experts, who discover best practices on their farm, at various seminars, lectures, consumer events, etc.
When receiving the award, Mr Zvone Černelič said: “This award is a great inspiration for our work in the future. We will do our best to justify this prestigious award and we will contribute to the awareness of farmers and consumers of the importance of organic and biodynamic agriculture for the health of the soil and the health of humans, and for improving biodiversity and mitigating climate change. We hope that EU Member States will support the development of organic farming on a greater scale so that European farmers will only be farming organically in the future.”
The Land and Soil Management Award rewards land use and soil management practices mitigating soil degradation, erosion, reduction of organic matter content, diffuse contamination and compaction as well as the reduction of soil biodiversity, salinization, flooding and landslides. The award sheds light on outstanding achievements encouraging new concepts of soil protection in agriculture and enhancing awareness about the importance of soil functions. With the promotion of the winning projects, the aim of the award is to enhance the visibility of such ways of farming at the local, national and European level, and to encourage farmers to develop sustainable farming.
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