Focus areas

  • a joint endeavour to co-design, co-create and implement solutions
  • main tool to achieving the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the EU Green Deal
  • focus on communities working together and societal involvement
  • sustainable land and soil management adapted to the local context
  • Lighthouses, i.e. places for demonstration of solutions, training and communication
  • Living Laboratories (or living labs), i.e. spaces for co-innovation

Target groups

  • Stakeholders along the whole food chain, including farmers, land managers (farmers, foresters, urban and spatial planners and other decision-makers in the public or private domain with regard to land use and rural areas), industries, consumers
  • Citizens, civil society organisations, public authorities and policy-makers
  • Academia, research and innovation players and other relevant stakeholders

Goal and objectives to be achieved by 2030

Objective 1: Reduce land degradation, including desertification and salinization

Target 1.1: Halt desertification to help achieve land degradation neutrality and start restoration

Objective 2: Conserve (e.g. in forests, permanent pastures, wetlands) and increase soil organic carbon stocks

Target 2.1: current carbon concentration losses on cultivated land (0.5% per year) are reversed to an increase by 0.1-0.4% per year

Target 2.2: the area of peatlands and wetlands losing carbon is reduced and the natural sink is significantly increased to help meet GHG reduction targets by 2030 and the Climate law goal by 2050

Objective 3: No net soil sealing and increase the re-use of urban soils for urban development

Target 3.1: increase urban recycling of land beyond 13% and switch from 2.4% to no net soil sealing as a contribution towards meeting the target of no net land take by 2050

Objective 4: Reduce soil pollution and enhance restoration

Target 4.1: reduce the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% and the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50%

Target 4.2: reduce fertilizer use by at least 20%

Target 4.3: reduce nutrient losses by at least 50%

Target 4.4: 25% of land under organic farming

Target 4.5: Reduce microplastics released to soils to meet 30% target of zero pollution action plan

Target 4.6: Halt and reduce secondary salinization

Objective 5: Prevent erosion

Target 5.1: reduce the area of land currently affected by unsustainable erosion from 25% to sustainable levels

Objective 6: Improve soil structure to enhance habitat quality for soil biota and crops

Target 6.1: Reduce compaction of soils to go significantly below current levels of 23% – 33%

Objective 7: Reduce the EU global footprint on soils

Target 7.1: Establish the EU’s global soil footprint in line with international standards

Target 7.2: The impact of EU’s food, timber and biomass imports on land degradation elsewhere is significantly reduced without creating trade-offs

Objective 8: Increase soil literacy in society across Member States.

Target 8.1: awareness of the societal role and value of soil is increased amongst EU citizens, including in key stakeholder groups, and policy makers

Target 8.2: soil health is firmly embedded in schools and educational curricula, to enable citizens’ behavioural change towards the adoption of sustainable practices both individually and collectively

Target 8.3: citizen involvement in soil and land-related issues is improved at all levels

Target 8.4: practitioners and stakeholders have access to appropriate information and training to improve skills and to support the adoption of sustainable land management practices

Other non-measurable objectives and wide-reaching impacts that the mission aims to deliver on:

  • improve the functioning of food and bio-based value chains, the conditions for biodiversity and the capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change
  • systemic transformations across the whole food chain
  • society rethinking the ways in which it values and cares about soil

Mission building blocks

  • Living Laboratories (LLs) and Lighthouses (LHs) within and across farms and forest, landscape and urban settings – for co-creation and sharing. LLs and LHs will ensure that the mission objectives and results are adapted to the regional context by learning and testing on-site.
  • Soil monitoring programme for each member state – selection of 8 consistent indicators for the common monitoring programme
  • Cross-scale, inter and transdisciplinary research and innovation (R&I) programme. These R&I actions will be implemented in the LLs and LHs. They will be focused on priorities linked to the objectives of the mission. R&I actions will aim at transformational changes in policy, management practices and a re-design of production systems and land management. They will cover two fundamental dimensions: soil health and drivers of soil health management. They will support and be supported by the other mission building blocks.
  • Training, education, communication and citizen engagement. LLS and LHs will be the main instrument for citizen engagement, bringing together researchers, practitioners, communities and other stakeholders to develop together solutions with a tangible impact and to share and spread already existing sustainable practices.

Mission drivers

  • Policy framework
  • Consumers and industries
  • Agricultural Knowledge and Information System (AKIS) and advisory services


Funding will be made available from Horizon Europe, and from other public sources (e.g. European, national, regional and local levels of funding) as well as from private investments.

Selection process

Similarly to the Horizon Europe selection process, initiatives to be funded via this mission will be selected based on calls for projects published in Work Programmes.

Mission implementation phase

The mission implementation is organised around 3 interconnected phases:

  • induction and pilot phase: to develop implementation structures, pool existing resources and bolster innovation capacity in Member States, regions and the sectors involved in the mission (2021 – 2025);
  • expansion and innovation phase: to expand activities, generate and test innovations (2025-2030);
  • scaling up and mainstreaming phase: to scale-up solutions, adapt to local needs of a broader set of regions and mainstream good practices across sectors and territories (2027- 2030).

Supporting document

Report Caring for soil is caring for life

Implementation Plan

Contact us

The first calls for proposals with topics specifically related to the missions will be published by the end of 2021. Luxembourg organisations interesting in being involved are welcome to contact the Horizon Europe National Contact Point at Luxinnovation for further information, advice and support.