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Soil quality: assessment, indicators & management

These are the source documents for the iSQAPERiS section »Soil quality: assessment, indicators & management.


Note: Project deliverable are subject to a number of quality assurance steps including reviewing and commenting from co-authors and the project coordinator before submission to the Commission. Commission-appointed external assessors may make recommendations for further amendment or clarification before deliverables are officially accepted. They are often works in progress, intended to inform and provide data or information for other project tasks. They are not the same as peer-reviewed and published articles, although they often form the basis for such articles.

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In this report we critically review the existing soil quality concepts and soil quality indicators on which the interactive tool will be based. We start by introducing the relevant definitions and terminology.This is followed by an overview of the various national soil quality concepts based on quantitative laboratory measurements. Visual soil evaluation has been reviewed recently (Emmet-Booth et al., 2016). so we include just a short presentation of visual approaches. The choice of soil quality indicators is then discussed in-depth with respect to requirements of indicators, methods to select a minimum dataset, a compilation of the most frequently proposed indicators, and the interpretation of indicator values, including how to derive a soil quality index. This is followed by a section on potential novel biological soil quality indicators.Finally, conclusions are drawn with respect to development of a novel conceptual framework for soil quality assessment. In particular, the suitability of different indicators with respect to sensitivity to indicate soil threats and functions, while being reliable, simple and cost-effective, is evaluated, and a set of parameters proposed which can be used for soil quality assessment in various pedo-climatic zones in Europe and China.

Please cite as: Bünemann, E. K. et al. (2016) Concepts and indicators of soil quality - a review. iSQAPER Project Deliverable 3.1 75 pp Available at www.isqaper-is.eu/documents

In this review we evaluate six soil quality indicators (yield, soil organic matter/carbon (SOM/SOC), pH, aggregate stability, water holding capacity, and earthworms) for five pairs of agricultural management practices (organic matter addition versus no organic matter input, no-tillage versus conventional tillage, crop rotation versus monoculture, irrigation versus non-irrigation, and organic agriculture versus conventional agriculture) using data from 72 long-term field experiments and 900 published papers and reports.

We conclude that all the management practices affect the soil quality indicators, but they do so in various ways. Overall, there are clear trends and relative changes, but the magnitude of the trends and direction of change vary with crop species, climate zone and soil type. Earthworms appears to be the most sensitive indicator for all the five management practices. SOC/SOM also responds positively after 23 years (on average in this study). Water holding capacity, aggregate stability and yield are less sensitive and pH the least of all.

Please cite as: Bai, Z. et al. (2016) Critical review of soil quality indicators with respect to their sensitivity to indicate soil functions and interactions with management as well as reliability and simplicity of measurement. iSQAPER Project Deliverable 3.2 123 pp. Available at www.isqaper-is.eu/documents

Methods for visually assessing 14 soil and 6 plant quality criteria.

Please cite as Alaoui, A. (2018) Visual Soil Quality Assessment Manual v2: assessment of soil and plant quality for the season 2018.  iSQAPER Report  49 pp. Available at www.isqaper-is.eu/documents.

 
 
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