Main authors: Abdallah Alaoui and Tatenda Lemann
iSQAPERiS editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: Alaoui, A. and Lemann, T. (2019) Report on stakeholder feedback to soil quality assessment app. iSQAPER Project Deliverable 5.1, 45 pp

 

Here we present the responses to the questionnaire and summarize specific comments and feedback. Further analysis of the data to see if there were any differences between the responses of men and women is given in »Gender disaggregated feedback results.


Contents table
1. Soil properties
2. Soil threats
3. Recommended agricultural management practices

1. Soil properties

1.1 How relevant are the physical soil properties proposed by SQAPP?

Soil properties characterising soil physical quality reported in SQAPP are:

  • depth to bedrock,
  • bulk density (BD),
  • soil texture,
  • coarse fragments,
  • plant available water storage capacity (PAWSC).

Results show that the stakeholders considered soil texture and PAWSC to be very relevant (42) compared to the other properties, while coarse fragments are considered relevant in comparison to BD, depth to bedrock, soil texture, and PAWSC. When considering both “very relevant” and “relevant” responses, all properties are considered important in the local context. However, 13 stakeholders consider that depth to bedrock is irrelevant in comparison to the other properties (Fig. 2A). The responses given by the farmers follow same patterns (Fig. 2B).

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Figure 2

1.2 How relevant are the chemical soil properties proposed by SQAPP?

Chemical soil properties used by SQAPP to evaluate soil quality are:

  • soil organic carbon (SOC),
  • soil pH,
  • cation exchange capacity (CEC),
  • electrical conductivity (EC),
  • exchangeable potassium,
  • phosphorous and
  • total nitrogen.

In terms of relevance, 57 stakeholders of 90 consider soil pH very relevant followed by SOC (54), while only 43 stakeholders consider total nitrogen in soil very important followed by exchangeable potassium (Fig. 3A). Except for SOC and soil pH, the majority of stakeholders consider the other properties as irrelevant or they have no idea about their relevance. The responses given by the farmers follow same patterns as that presented in Fig. 3B.

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Figure 3

1.3 How relevant are the biological soil properties proposed by SQAPP?

Soil biological properties considered in SQAPP are

  • estimated soil microbial abundance and
  • macrofauna groups.

About 50 of the 89 stakeholders considered both biological properties as very relevant or relevant, while others consider them irrelevant (12 stakeholders for estimated soil microbial abundance, and 11 for the macrofauna groups). About 30 stakeholders did not understand their relevance (Fig. 4A). The responses given by the farmers' group followed the same patterns (Fig. 4B).

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Figure 4

1.4 Did you understand the meaning of the probability density functions? Did the full range of values make sense to you within the local context?

Thirty-nine of the 90 stakeholders said they understood the meaning of the probability density functions (PDFs) that SQAPP provides (Fig. 5A) and 49 agreed on the plausibility of the full range of values defining it (Fig. 5C). However, they were either partially or not understood by 51 of the respondents (Fig. 5A and 5C). The responses given by the farmer group are comparable to the ones of all stakeholders (Fig. 5B and 5D).

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Figure 5

1.5 Are there other important properties you commonly use to assess soil quality that are not provided in SQAPP?

From the 35 responses to this question we highlight the following (in decreasing order of priority):

  1. Six stakeholders report that there are no missing soil properties.
  2. The other stakeholders report missing information on: (a) magnesium and sulphur (5 responses); (b) aggregate stability and soil structure (5 responses); (c) soil compaction (4 responses); and (d) the methods used, e.g. for the analysis of potassium, phosphorus, pH in calcium or chloride suspension (2 responses).

1.6 How user friendly is the soil property chapter (easy to use, convenient, practical)?

The responses to this question showed that 84 of 90 stakeholders found that the soil properties chapter is good to satisfactory and only 6 respondents found it unsatisfactory (Fig. 6A). The responses of the farmer group to this question follow same patterns (Fig. 6B).

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Figure 6

When we looked at the suggestions, comments and feedback on the soil property chapter, the most prominent issues are summarized as follows (in decreasing order of priority):

  1. There is a lack of clarity in the units that should be better presented and adapted. Description of the units should be added. Some units should be presented according to the location under consideration (e.g. soil nutrient in Slovenia is expressed with mg/100gr soil).
  2. There is a lack of accuracy in some results. Certain soil parameters are totally wrong or overestimated (e.g. water erosion, depth to bedrock, plant water capacity, soil depth).
  3. The soil property chapter is difficult to understand by the farmers. The two first points “i” and “ii” may explain this difficulty.
  4. The source of data should be mentioned. This lack of information sows doubt about the reliability of the parameters. For this purpose, it was suggested to include a reference range (high / medium / low) or an index of estimated accuracy level to indicate the reliability of the results. This can also help to address point i, ii, and iii.
  5. SQAPP should be available in the local language.

2. Soil threats

2.1 How relevant are the proposed soil threats within the local context? Are the threshold values meaningful in the local context?

The responses to these questions show that SOM decline is the most relevant soil threat followed by soil nutrient depletion, soil compaction, and soil acidification while soil salinization and soil erosion by water were considered as irrelevant. The majority of the respondents had no data to enter into SQAPP regarding soil salinization, soil erosion by water and wind, or soil acidification (Fig. 7A).

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Figure 7

Similarly, the majority of stakeholders consider the thresholds for SOM decline, soil nutrient depletion, soil acidification, and soil compaction very meaningful, whereas they consider those for erosion by water, soil salinization and soil acidification not meaningful (Fig. 7B).

For the question “are the threshold values meaningful in the local context? If no, specify”, 19 respondents provided comments showing the following facts in decreasing order of priority:

  1. The majority of the respondents (13 of 19) state that the threshold values are not realistic in the local context. They are too high in most cases.
  2. Two respondents reported the lack of measured data in their location which could have been used refine the outcomes. We expect that exploring new locations (where no data exist) is one of the expectations of the users. Those gaps could be could be addressed by i) giving users the possibility to enter their own data (e.g. laboratory analysis, visual soil assessment) and ii) providing information on the reliability of the results and source of data.
  3. Two respondents highlighted the need of information on the source of data.

2.2 How user friendly is the soil threat chapter (easy to use, convenient, practical)? How do you consider the "potential for soil property improvement (%)"?

In answer to these questions, the respondents consider soil threat chapter good and satisfactory in terms of the user friendly format (Fig. 8A). For the second question about the potential for soil properties improvement, the majority of the respondents consider it “about right” (Fig. 8C). When considering only the responses of the farmers, a similar trend is observed for both questions (Fig. 8B and D).

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Figure 8

Additional suggestions and feedback concerning soil threat chapter can be summarized as follows in decreasing order of priority:

  1. The majority of the respondents (15 of  28) reported difficulty in understanding the outcomes of the threshold values (in a practical way) suggesting appropriate information on the thresholds values, colours (red for high risk, yellow for moderate risk, and green for low risk for threshold). Thus, it was also reported that the information given in the actual form is not suitable for farmer (1 response) nor for a non-farmer “informed layperson” (1 response: “I don't understand what the threats say about my specific plot and what the implications are”).
  2. 3 respondents suggested including some other soil threats such as “susceptibility to pests”, contamination with pesticides and other relevant organic components, and suggested that erosion should be divided in two types: (i) erosion by surface water (rivers), and (ii) erosion by overland flow.
  3. As mentioned by 3 respondents, the thresholds should be in accordance with crop / land management under consideration (e.g. different crops need different pH).
  4. The values of the thresholds are overestimated (2 responses), e.g. soil erosion, water erosion.
  5. Threshold values should be in accordance with national legislation (e.g. case of Slovenia) (2 responses).

2.3 Do you agree with the value when considering the soil quality of the plot in relation to the range of conditions for the same soil type in the region? Are you satisfied with the proposed "soil parameters needing attention"?

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Figure 9

A sizeable group of the respondents agreed with the value regarding soil quality (32 of 90), and 47 respondents partially agreed (Fig. 9A). Concerning the proposed “soil parameters needing attention”, the majority of the respondents agreed while 11 and 26 of 90 neither agree with their plausibility nor their ranking/priority, respectively (Fig. 9B). Additional comments and issues raised (21 points of feedback) concerning these issues raised by the two above questions are summarized below in decreasing order of priority:

  1. The majority of the responses (13 of 21) point out inaccuracies in the sequence in which priority/ranking is listed in the “soil parameters needing attention”.
  2. Two respondents found that the values of soil properties provided by the SQAPP are not reliable (e.g. phosphorus).
  3. Two respondents were satisfied with their values (1) and their ranking (1).

2.4 Is "the overall threat level" bar (low - high) comprehensible?

The results concerning the above questions show that the overwhelming majority (87 respondents among 90) found that “the overall threat level” bar (Low – High) are comprehensible.

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Figure 10

2.5 Does the overall position corresponds to your own estimate of overall soil threat level? Are you satisfied with the listed "soil threats needing attention"?

Concerning the first question, the majority of the respondents (75 of 90) found that the overall position of the soil threat level correspond only partially to their own estimate (Fig. 11A). In contrast, the majority of them, 77 and 68, are satisfied with the listed “soil threats needing attention” in terms of plausibility and ranking/priority, respectively (Fig. 11C). The responses of the farmers are comparable to the ones of all stakeholders for both questions (Fig. 11B and 11D). These results follow a similar pattern as those soil parameters needing attention values given in Fig. 9B.

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Figure 11

 

3. Recommendations for agricultural management practices

3.1 Is the number of recommended practices appropriate? Are you satisfied with the recommended practices, in terms of clarity and level of detail?

Results regarding these two questions show that the number of the recommended practices is just right as expressed by 43 of the 90 respondents, but 32 respondents found that there are too many recommended practices (Fig. 12A).

In contrast, the majority of the respondents are satisfied with the description of the provided practices in terms of clarity (82 of 90) and level of detail (64 of 90), while 21 respondents are not satisfied with their description in terms of level of detail (Fig. 12B).

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These results can be explained by the fact that only a few AMPs were considered appropriate and interesting to try in the locations where SQAPP was being tested (Fig. 13A). It is suggested that recommendations should be restricted to the most important and innovative AMPs that can be implemented in any one location, instead of listing many practices that are out of context. These recommendations are also valid for the farmer group (Fig. 13 B).

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Figure 13

Figure 13 shows the 49 responses to the 3 questions below.

  1. How many of the suggested practices have you already implemented at the moment?
  2. How many of the suggested practices do you deem appropriate for the location considered?
  3. How many of the suggested practices are interesting to (still) try out in your view?

The answers to these questions suggest that at least three three AMPs have already been implemented by the stakeholders or are considered as appropriate for implementation in their areas.

3.2 What type of additional information would you require? 

Three main additional information types were requested by the respondents and are listed in order of decreasing priority (Fig. 14):

  1. guidance (38),
  2. experiences (29), and
  3. cost (14)

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Figure 14

3.3 Are you satisfied with the recommended practices? Are the recommended practices new for you?

The majority of the respondents (42 of 55) were satisfied with the suitability of the AMPs recommended by SQAPP, but only 28 among them were satisfied with the level of innovation. Seventeen of 55 respondents were not satisfied (Fig. 15A). These results are also confirmed by the responses to the second question concerning the novelty of the recommended AMPs: 29 of the 55 respondents considered that the AMPs were not new, 17 ones attest only partially to their novelty, and only 9 thought that the recommended AMPs were new (Fig. 15C). Comparable responses were given by the farmers concerning the first question (Fig. 15B) while for second question, the majority of the farmers consider the recommended practices only partially new for them (Fig. 15D).

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Figure 15

Additional comments (13) were summarized as follows:

  1. The recommended AMPs are not appropriate or not relevant within the local context (6 of the 13 respondents).
  2. SQAPP doesn’t correctly show the appropriate cropping system for the farm it was being tested at, which leads to a mistake in the recommended AMPs. It would be wise to enable the cropping system to be entered manually in order to refine the recommendations. An example of such a mistake is when SQAPP identified a farm as arable land while in reality it was covered by hundreds of hectares of woody crops (olives and oranges).. Another example is that SQAPP recommends converting arable land to forest/grassland in areas where the farmers already do not have enough arable land.

3.4 Specify in what format?

The responses to this question suggest using an overview webpage (23 of 46) and videos to support the recommendations (Fig. 16A). Comparable results were obtained from the farmers (10 of 23 responses for overview web pages and 7 for videos) (Fig. 16B). One important comment, not reported previously, is the necessity of providing documentation on how to implement the measures in practice and give examples of good practices in in other locations with similar soil properties.

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Figure 16

3.5 Does SQAPP fulfil your expectations? Do you see a potential use of SQAPP for the stakeholder group you belong to?

In general, SQAPP fulfilled the expectations of the majority of the stakeholders (68 of all 90 stakeholders 17 of 23 farmers) (Fig 17A and 17B). Again the majority (80 of all 90 stakeholders) saw a potential use for SQAPP (17 of 23 farmers also agreed) (Fig. 17C and 17D).

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Figure 17

Additional comments from the respondents included:

i. SQAPP is very useful for many reasons:

  • To make decisions.
  • To implement cultivation technics and soil preservation.
  • To provide immediate information for local soil degradation processes.
  • To help select experimental plots and locations; to evaluate/check fields before set up of the experiments.
  • To provide an overview on the quality and soil threats in a specific area.

ii. SQAPP has some limitations and needs improvements:

  • Not suitable for farmers with a lower education. Data are not reliable enough to provide information for a given location.
  • Information given is sometimes totally wrong (e.g. cropping system).
  • SQAPP should integrate the soil, crop and yield in order to bring high benefit to the user.

3.6 What adaptations should be made to SQAPP to make it more useful for you?

Finally, the respondents were asked to suggest improvements that should be made to SQAPP. The following are highlighted in decreasing order of priority:

  1. Clear and practical information; the tool must be easy to use by the farmers (e.g. use of colours for recommendations that reflect level of their significance).
  2. Higher accuracy in the data presented.
  3. The possibility to enter in-situ or laboratory data for the location or farm where SQAPP is being used.
  4. SQAPP should be translated into the local language.
  5. Information should be provided on the methods and databases used.
  6. SQAPP should include more information such as: yield (which crop should be planted in this area), costs, how much manure should be used per ha and what kind is recommended, the possibiity to compare results from different areas.

 


The complete set of comments is contained in the Annexes of the report.

 

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