Responsible partner:
»National Research and Development Institute for Soil Science, Agrochemistry and Environmental Protection (ICPA) 
Authors: Irina Calciu, Olga Petruta Vizitiu 
iSQAPERiS editor: Jane Brandt

 

Contents table
1. Infographics and videos
2. Study site description
3. Participation of stakeholders in the iSQAPER research programme
4. Research tasks
5. Long-term impact of iSQAPER's research programme in the study site

1. Infographics and videos

Echipa studiului de caz localizat în Județul Brăila a realizat un infografic în care s-au descris procesele de degradare a solului de sub pășuni

An infographic was made by the Braila County study site team to describe the soil degradation processes that take place in pastures.

  Infografika Infographics
video 04 screenshot sq

»Procese specifice de degradare a solului de sub pășuni
Procesele de degradare a solului de sub pășuni apar ca urmare a compactării datorită traficului necontrolat al animalelor, eroziunii de pe terenurile în pantă, infestării cu buruieni datorită managementului necorespunzător și perioadelor cu secetă. Sistemele durabile de pășunat presupun accesul controlat al animelor pe pășune și excluderea temporară a parcelelor de la pășunat în vederea restaurării vegetației.

»Specific soil degradation processes in pastures
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.

 2. Study site description

Location

The iSQAPER study site in Romania is located in Braila County in the north-eastern section of the Romanian Plain. It has an agricultural area of 387,646 ha (of which 350,001 ha are arable land), and has specific geomorphologic, hydrological and climatic conditions, which require the use of an ameliorative agricultural systems. Within Braila County, are distinguished the following relief units: Calmatui Plain, part of the Braila Plain (51% from County area) and the Floodplains of Danube (Big Island of Braila), Siret, Buzau and Calmatui rivers (49% from County area).

Braila Plain is characterized by a specific micro-relief with large floodplains, poorly fragmented, with altitudes ranging between 20-25 m in the east, and 35-40 m to the west. Floodplains, areas adjacent to the Danube, Siret, Buzau and Calmatui rivers are located at lower altitudes, ranging between 2-4 m and 13-15 m and are characterized by the presence of alluvial soils formed on river-limnic and alluvial deposits, with alternating of layers with different textures.

SS08 1 SS08 2

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Braila County is located in an arid region with an average annual temperature of 10.9°C, long-term average annual precipitations (P) of 447 mm, potential evapotranspiration (ETP) of 705 mm (750-800 mm in dry years) and an average climatic water deficit of 258 mm (350-400 mm in dry years). The biophysical aridity index (P/ETP = 0.50-0.65) places the case study site in an area with a moderate risk to desertification.

Main farming systems and typical agricultural management activities in the study area

Both intensive and extensive farming systems are practiced within Braila County. Intensive agriculture, characterized by high inputs and yield levels, is evident on large arable farms. On the other hand, extensive agriculture, with low input and yield levels, is practiced by farmers on small arable farms, and is so-called the semi-subsistent agriculture. Also, within the case study site, mixed farms that have both vegetal and dairy sectors, are recorded. The livestock from the 20 dairy farms include: 156,000 pigs; 1,200 cattle; 6,000 sheep; and 1,000,000 hens and broilers.

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Characteristic soils and soil quality monitoring practice

The main soil types in the Braila Plain area are: chernozems (164,367 ha – 43% from County area), cambic chernozems (21,999 ha – 6% from County area) and soils formed on loess deposits. On the other hand, in the floodplains of the Danube and the other rivers, alluvial soils (129,020 ha), gleysols (19,980 ha) and mollic gleysols (10,488 ha) represent around 41% of County area. On smaller areas, sandy soils (19,830 ha – 5% from County area) and solonchaks (20,183 ha – 5% from County area) are spread within the Calmatui Plain and in river floodplains, respectively.

Agricultural land quality reflects both soil fertility and behavior of environmental factors, which influence plant growth. Applying a soil quality classification taking into account these factors and consisting of five classes, around 47% of the agricultural area of Braila County belong to 1st and 2nd quality classes, meaning that these soils have high fertility, and around 34%, 12% and 7% of the agricultural area belong to 3rd, 4th and 5th quality classes, respectively.

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Soil types
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Soil texture

Previous research and innovation actions on soil improvement and monitoring

Within the case study site, the Agricultural Research and Development Station of Braila (ARDS Braila) operates, which is subordinate to the Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences. The station ARDS Braila conducts research and development in the following areas: irrigation systems, agricultural technologies and improvement and reclamation of salted soils. Currently, the station ARDS Braila has two research projects funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development dealing with: efficient exploitation of natural water resources in irrigation systems to reduce water consumption in irrigation and soil fertility conservation; and, improving rice cultivation technology in ameliorative rice growing sites placed on salted soils undergoing soil reclamation.

Since 1977, Romania has developed the “Agricultural Soil Quality Monitoring System”, an improved soil surveillance system for soil quality of agricultural and forestry soils, which was coordinated by ICPA. The physical and chemical parameters were observed in georeferenced sites on a fixed grid of 16 x 16 km; in total 670 agricultural monitoring sites being located, analyzed and characterized at the national level. As for the case study site, 17 sites were analyzed and characterized. As a result of this ‘monitoring system’, maps with the current quality/state of soils were produced by using a set of physical, hydro-physical and chemical indicators (e.g. soil texture class - see figure above, available water capacity, humus content etc.). Also changes in soil quality due to degradation processes, such as soil compaction, erosion, heavy metals pollution were identified.

 

3. Participation of stakeholders in the iSQAPER research programme

The local stakeholders listed in Table 1 were involved throughout the duration of iSQAPER in a number of research tasks including: providing experimental sites for the soil quality assessment and agricultural management practice evaluation; testing and evaluating SQAPP; attending demonstration workshops.

Table 1: Local stakeholders involved in the iSQAPER research programme

Stakeholder type Locations Institution  Number and gender M/F Role
Farmers, land managers Scortaru Nou, Silistea, Maxineni, Movila Miresii (Braila county) Farms  6M, 1F  Land owner, land manager, land worker 
Advisors Braila  Agricultural County Office  1F  Provider of information/advice to land managers/workers 
Policy-makers Scortaru Nou (Braila county)  Town hall  1M  Community leader 
Researchers Bucharest  ICPA Bucharest  2F  Research, soil threats and soil quality assessment

4. Research tasks

Soil quality assessment and agricultural management practice evaluation

Based on WOCAT database (www.wocat.net), iSQAPER selected 18 promising agricultural management practices (AMPs) with potential to improve soil quality (»Agricultural management practices in the iSQAPER study sites). Twelve examples of a number of these AMPs were identified in the Braila County study site that conformed to the following criteria:

  1. the promising management practice has been implemented for at least 3 years;
  2. at least 2 different soil types are represented; and
  3. at least in 2 different first level Farming Systems (arable, permanent, grazing) are represented.

For each AMP plot, nearby control plots were also identified where the practice has not changed.

Table 2: AMPs identified in the Braila County study site. Climatic region: Northen sub-continental

Plot number Farming system  Farming system detail Soil type AMP general description AMP number*
8.1 Arable Non irrigated arable land - Cereals Chernozems Min-till 2
8.2 Arable Non irrigated arable land - Legumes Fluvisols Leguminous crops 5
8.3 Arable Non irrigated arable land - Legumes Chernozems Leguminous crops 5
8.4 Arable Non irrigated arable land - Legumes Fluvisols Crop rotation / Control or change of species composition 9
8.5 Arable Non irrigated arable land - Legumes Chernozems Crop rotation / Control or change of species composition 19
8.6 Arable Non irrigated arable land - Cereals Fluvisols Measures against compaction 10
8.7 Arable Non irrigated arable land - Maize Fluvisols Irrigation management 14
8.8 Arable Non irrigated arable land - Maize Chernozems Irrigation management 14
8.9 Pasture Extensive Chernozems Area closure / rotational grazing 17
8.10 Pasture Extensive Fluvisols Area closure / rotational grazing 17
8.11 Pasture Extensive Chernozems Change of land use practices / intensity level 18
8.12 Pasture Extensive Fluvisols Change of land use practices / intensity level 18

*Note: see »Assessing effect of management practices on soil quality - experimental framework for the full list and descriptions of the 18 promising agricultural management practices.

A first field campaign was conducted in 2016 to evaluate the soil quality in each of the paired AMP-control plots, using visual soil assessment methods (»Visual soil and plant quality assesment). The results from this and all the other study sites were combined to determine which AMPs can be shown to have a proven positive effect on soil quality, see »Assessing effect of management practices on soil quality - experimental results.

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Those practices that are innovative for Romania were also described and added to the WOCAT database

The soil assessment campaign was repeated in 2018 on the two paired plots highlighted in green in Table 2 (8.8: Irrigation management and 8.11: Change of land use practice/intensity level) with laboratory-based measurements added to the visual soil assessments. The aim was to investigate

  • how measurements of soil quality parameters obtained from the visual assessments compared to those obtained from laboratory measurements;
  • if different AMPs affected different soil quality parameters in different ways;
  • and what impact the AMPs had on the principal soil threats.

For details of the assessment analysis methods and the results from this and all study sites see »Impact of promising agricultural management practices.

As a result of this extended analysis, the example of irrigation managment Plot 8.8 (which consisted of irrigating sunflowers) was finally selected to demonstrate the positive impact management practice can have on soil quality (see »Demonstrations of recommended agricultural management practices in the study sites).


Soil properties
Romania 8.8 threa
Soil threats

This practice addresses drought and organic matter depletion. VSA total scores were much higherunder the AMP and individual soil indicator scores were equal only for topsoil compaction, earthworm count and soil colour. For measured properties, the differences consisted of a slightly higher organic carbon content and a reduction in bulk density.

SQAPP development, testing and evaluation

Of the 90 stakeholders who took part in the evaluation of the beta version of SQAPP, 2 were from the Braila County study site. Participants were asked a series of questions relating to their expectations of SQAPP and the relevance of the soil parameters included in SQAPP, the assessment of soil threats and the suitability of the app's recommendations to their local context. The feedback and comments were combined with those from the other study sites and used in the further development of SQAPP. For details of the responses from all study sites see »Stakeholder feedback and SQAPP development

Demonstration workshops

On 30 September 2019 a demonstration event was organised at the ICPA Institute to present the major findings of iSQAPER to stakeholders and to discuss water management on arable lands as a management practice of proven benefit to soil quality. The event was attended by 11 participants.

The results from this demonstration event and those held in the other study sites are summarised in »Demonstrations of recommended agricultural management practices in the study sites.

A leaflet describing the AMP water management on arable lands was prepared to accompany the discussions.

AMP SS08 EN a
English version
AMP SS08 EN b
 
AMP SS08 EN b AMP SS08 RO a
Romanian version
AMP SS08 RO a AMP SS08 RO b
 
AMP SS08 RO b

 »Water management in arable lands

4. Long-term impact of iSQAPER's research programme in the study site

Taking account discussions with the stakeholders and feedback from the various research tasks and events in which they took part, it is anticipated that the iSQAPER research programme could have a lasting legacy in the Braila County study site as indicated in Table 3.

Table 3: Activities in which iSQAPER's research programme could potentially have a lasting impact in the Braila County study site

Activity Impact level: 0 - no impact, 1 - barely noticeable to 5 - important visible impact     
0 1 2 3 4 5
Research results influencing farming practice       x    
Uptake of recommended AMPs           x
Regular use of SQAPP     x      
Development of new or enhancement of existing stakeholder networks   x        
The involvement of new stakeholder types in existing networks     x      
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