A series of infographics providing information about iSQAPER's major research themes and results, soil quality issues in the study sites and agricultural management practices of proven benefit. Most of these infographics were designed by the study sites in communication with their stakeholders to explain local soil quality issues and describe recommended practices.
Infographics relating to the main research themes addressed by iSQAPER
Soil quality: indicators, assessment & management
Soil quality is the capacity of soil to perform multiple functions. This capacity can be threatened by intensive agricultural practices. Soil quality can be measured through the use of parameters which are sensitive to management and related to soil functions. For a proper and complete assessment of soil quality, physical, chemical and biological parameters all need to be measured.
Intensive agriculture puts soil under pressure, causes earthworm numbers to decrease, reducing soil structure and increasing erosion risk. Alternative agricultural practices such as reduced tillage, organic agriculture and crop rotation can favour earthworms and maintain soil functions.
Labile carbon is a fraction of total carbon closely connected with soil organisms. It has been positively linked with multiple soil functions and is increased by sustainable agricultural management practices such as reduced tillage and organic matter additions. This makes labile carbon a very useful and practical soil quality indicator.
Sustainable land management practices
Soil erosion, organic matter decline and biodiversity loss can all result from intensive agricultural practices. Most ecosystem services are soil mediated and can only be satisfactorily provided by healthy soils. Sustainable farming practices mimic natural soil conditions through minimal disturbance, permanent cover and plant diversity.
Infographics relating to the iSQAPER study sites
Study site 1: De Peel, Netherlands
The De Peel study site provides examples of focus points for sustainable soil management including prevention of nutrient leaching, subsoil compaction addition of organic matter and crop rotation.
Study site 4: Southeast Spain
Prácticas agrícolas sostenibles del Sureste Español (Sustainable agricultural practices from southeast Spain)
Mulching, crop rotation, application of compost, reduced tillage, organic agriculture and maintaining a vegetation cover are illustrated and described (in Spanish)
Study site 5: Crete, Greece
The land managment practices of no tillage + no herbicide application, no tillage + herbicide application and conventional tillage are compared to assess their effects on soil erosion and loss of organic matter content.
Study site 6: Ljubljana, Slovenia
In the light soils of Ljubljana, crop production is affected by drought. Cropland is ploughed and sown with drought resistant grass varieties, fencing and rotational grazing paddocks are introduced to provide pasture for suckler cows with multiple benefits for soil quality.
Manure collected from livestock is stored before being ploughed into the soil. The manure increases nutrient content and availability, soil structure, microbial activity and impacts plant growth resulting in better vegetable and crop production.
Bio-char and zeolite are used in animal production and spread onto the fields as part of organic manure. Zeolite is also used as individual element in crop production to improve soils. All residues are incorporated into the soil.
Study site 7: Zala County, Hungary
Zala County is in the southwest of Hungary. Farming practices include the use of manure, grass strips, contour tillage, permanent and cover crops and minimum tillage. Soil erosion contributes to the eutrophication of nearby Lake Balaton and protection against erosion is essential.
Study site 8: Braila County, Romania
Compaction from uncontrolled animal trampling, erosion on slopes, weed infestation from inadequate management and drought periods all cause soil degradation in pastures. Sustainable grazing systems use controlled grazing access and temporary exclusion to allow vegetation restoration.
Study site 9: Trzebieszów, Poland
Diversity in plant and animal species (especially meso and micro fauna) plays an important role in food and biomass production, in the stability and adaptability of ecosystems and enhances soil function.
The light, sandy soils of Poland tend to be used with a restricted cereal crop rotation. Consequently low organic matter, low water holding capacity and soil acidity hinder production and other soil functions. Increasing organic matter and using sustainable soil management will save the soil for future generations.
Study site 10: Tartuuma, Estonia
In Estonia, there are intensively managed mixed farms focussed on dairy farming and crop production, but there are also alternative and organic farms located on the west coast and on the islands which have different impacts on soil quality.
In central and southern Estonia, where the iSQAPER study site is located, the main soil types are Luvisols. The degradation threats faced by these soils include unbalanced use of nutrients, decomposition of organic matter, compaction, erosion and acidification.
Reduced (minimum) tillage is a tillage method that does not turn the soil over; usually, only the upper 10-18 cm of the soil surface is tilled. The technology was implemented in Estonia less than 10 years ago and already 2/3 of cereals are cultivated by minimum tillage technology.
No-till farming (also called zero tillage or direct drilling) is a way of growing crops or pasture from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage.