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Mediterranean agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change. A crop production strategy that responds to climate change must address both adaptability and mitigation aspects, and should also contribute to decreasing the overall agricultural carbon footprint in the economy. Over the past decades, there have been concerted efforts to promote such strategy through application of conservation agriculture (CA). CA is a set of soil management practices that minimize the disruption of the soil's structure, composition and natural biodiversity. Despite high diversity in the types of crops grown, all forms of CA share 4 core principles. These include (i) maintenance of permanent or semi-permanent soil cover, (ii) direct seeding with minimum soil disturbance, (iii) regular crop rotations or sequences and (iv) integrated weed control. It also uses or promotes where possible or needed various management practices such as utilization of green manures/cover crops, integrated pest and disease management, use of well adapted, high yielding varieties and good quality seeds, efficient water management and controlled traffic over agricultural soils. The origins, inventions and evolution of CA principles and practices are embedded in North and South American farming societies who, out of necessity, had to respond to the severe erosion and land degradation problems and productivity declines on their agricultural soils due to “intensive” tillage-based production agriculture. CA is currently practiced on 117 million hectares in all continents and all ecologies, including the dry Mediterranean environments. Presently, CA is advertised as a climate-smart agriculture permitting to (i) cope with drought and climate variability, (ii) invert erosion processes, (iii) mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and (iv) sustain food production and tackle food security. For Mediterranean environments, many researchers believe that agriculture has the potential of becoming a much larger sink for CO2, if CA principles are followed. In fact, the accumulated scientific and farmer’s evidences have shown that CA can successfully provide a range of unequivocal productivity, socio-economic and environmental co-benefits to the producers and the society at large. To achieve these benefits, CA needs heightened attention in agricultural policy processes and strategies from national to regional levels. This paper is addressing these issues in order to smooth policy shifts to CA in dry Mediterranean areas.


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