BookletFrontCover

A new SoilCare booklet for farmers has been produced by the project partners from France. The booklet titled, 10 common practices and their harmful impact on soil aims to help with 10 common problems that often happen on farm. Management mistakes are identified and solutions are provided that are tested by farmers and researchers as part of the SoilCare project. The handy tips are intended to improve the quality of the soil, save unnecessary expense and develop the sustainability of the farm.

The 10 common practices are summarised as:

  • Making observations of your soil at a plot scale exclusively without considering the landscape and the local environment
  • Causing involuntary soil compaction by unsuitable agricultural practices
  • Not applying lime
  • Ploughing the organic matter too deeply
  • Storing manure under conditions which allow nutrient leaching
  • Leaving soil exposed in a bare uncultivated field
  • Ploughing organic matter just before sowing
  • Betting on a miraculous soil amendment
  • Composting manure: a good solution but best done quickly to avoid nutrient loss
  • Your own field-based observations are important – compare these with laboratory results

The booklet can be downloaded HERE

SoilCarefilmA new SoilCare film has been released. The 13 minute film provides an overview of the SoilCare project. It opens by explaining the importance of soil-improving cropping systems (SICS) and then visits some of the SoilCare study sites around Europe. In particular, the film focuses on the trials conducted in the Belgium study site and also the experiences of a Danish organic farmer who is working with SoilCare to reduce his reliance on ploughing.

The film can be viewed using the link below and is currently available in English, Danish, Dutch and Greek. Other languages will be available shortly.

Another film has been produced that provides a description of the study site in Denmark and can be viewed here. 

 

SoilCare study site Denmark presentation from Soil Physics & Land Use PROJECTS on Vimeo.

SoilCare Project Introductory Leaflets

The SoilCare project introductory leaflet provides details of the aims and objectives of the project and the partners involved.  The leaflet is available in 15 languages.

 

Soil Management Mistakes Booklet

The booklet, titled, "10 common practices and their harmful impact on soil" aims to help with 10 common problems that often happen on farm. The booklet is available in Spanish, Greek and English. More languages are to follow soon. 

Each issue of the SoilCare newsletter focuses on soil threat-specific SICS. In this newsletter the focus is on organic matter decline-specific SICS.

Decline of soil organic matter (SOM) refers to a loss of organic matter mass (and quality) in soils over time, which may lead to a deterioration of soil structure, a loss of water and nutrient retention and biological activity, and in the end to a reduction in crop productivity and water and nutrient use efficiency. Land use change (from forest and pastures to arable land) and intensive soil cultivation are major causes of a loss of soil organic matter. There is some evidence that climate change also contributes to a decline in SOM.

The SoilCare review of SICS (see Newsletter 2) has identified SICS that prevent organic matter decline. These SICS relate to measures that decrease mineralization of soil organic matter and/or increase inputs of organic matter. Organic matter-specific SICS may involve 3 mechanisms: (i) changes in inputs, (ii) substitution, and (iii) redesign. 

 The first mechanism relates to (increased) inputs of compost, crop residues, and animal manures. The second mechanism involves PerennialWheatreduced soil tillage, direct seeding in untilled soil instead of intensive soil cultivation, and controlled drainage. The third mechanism involves the growth of crops with large biomass production and a relatively low harvest index, straw and crop residues return to soil, and the growth of perennial crops, cover crops, leys and green manures.

The most promising organic matter-specific SICS have been identified as:

- reducing net soil organic matter mineralization (minimal tillage, drainage)

- enhancing the organic matter input into the soil (through crop residues, manures, composts) (see the Table).

 

 

  Components of cropping system  Components of organic matter decline-specific SICS  Change in profitability
 Crop rotation

 Deep-rooting crops and/or

+ large % cereals in rotation

+ cover crops, green manures

-/+
 Nutrient management  Application of manure and compost +/-
C  Irrigation management  optimal  
 Drainage management  Reduced drainage of organic-rich soils and peat soils -
E  Tillage management  Reduced tillage +/-
F  Pest management  optimal  
G  Weed management  optimal  
H Residue management Residue return -/+
J Mechanization management optimal  

 

For more information about these different SICS, please visit the SoilCare page on SICS 

Front coverThe need to provide appropriate information, advice and support to land managers about sustainable soil management is increasingly recognised at the international, European and national levels. Advice to farmers concerning soil management is complex as it can cover a number of topics, address a number of objectives, and be delivered by different providers using varying approaches, methods, tools. This diverse soil advice landscape reflects a context where farmers are having to deliver both marketable and environmental public goods combined with a typically diverse and fragmented advice landscape whereby farmers are influenced by multiple priorities, interests and people (environmental, agronomic, innovation, technological, food assurance etc).

A new SoilCare report, available HERE, considers these multiple contextual factors when reviewing and assessing the effectiveness of advice about soil-improving cropping systems (SICS).

The review is structured around 5 key issues:

  • soil management topics already being supported with advice
  • advisory services and how farmers currently obtain information about soil management
  • gaps in advice and dissemination
  • examples of effective advice/best practice
  • key principles for effective knowledge exchange of SICS

Both European and national support and advice is reviewed with particular reference to the SoilCare study site countries where information is available. As there are few/no academic papers that specifically examine advice for soil– the review draws on papers and reports that consider:

  1. advice and information in the context of adoption of broader best management practices (BMP);
  2. advice as it relates to policy measures relevant to soil in European countries, concerning all aspects of soil management in arable agriculture i.e. not just SICS;
  3. advisory systems and services in European countries primarily referring to the EU Proakis project
  4. recent relevant research and reviews conducted in the EU funded projects such as RECARE and SmartSOIL. The policy review conducted in WP7 (Deliverable 7.1) complements this assessment of the advice landscape for soil.

Drawing on the review, the report concludes with some key principles for advice and dissemination on SICS, structured around the three main elements of the dissemination strategy: the message (the what), the methods (the how) and the audience (the who).  These principles are summarised below with more detail provided in the report.

The Message (what)

  • Does the land manager want to use the information and can they?
  • Does it clash with other advice?
  • Are there opportunities to link it to other advice?
  • Does it fit with compliance and standards for AEM contracts?
  • Is it limited by meeting cross compliance regulations?
  • Is it holistic advice – several SICS combined across the farm?
  • Emphasise SICS principles, not prescriptions
  • How big is the change on farm - and is long-term support needed?
  • Is the advice clear and were the principles and language used understood?
  • Discuss trade-offs and short-term losses, as well as assurances of long-term benefits

The Methods (how) 

  • What differences are there between advisory service quality and capacity?
  • Do these services need training in SICS?
  • What viewpoints may advisors bring to SICS explanations? How does this sit within the wider advisory landscape?
  • Who does the land manager trust and not trust in giving sound advice?
  • Does advice need to be farm-specific, or broader?
  • Are events or one-one conversations best?

The Audience (who)

  • Do land managers need training in SICS application?
  • Is there anyone trained in SICS to give advice and training?
  • Land managers may vary from small-holders to commercial farms with varying tenures, control over decisions and environmental commitment
  • Some land managers may want to see case studies of SICS in practice, others research evidence behind them
  • The same messages can be understood differently depending on the land manager
  • How tailored can you make the advice depending upon the scale (local – regional / national)?
  • Advice needs to be focused on farm business but set within the context of other influences

The review has also helped to inform a recent paper Are advisory services ‘fit for purpose’ to support sustainable soil management? A review of advisory capacity in Europe published in a Special Issue of Soil Use and Management “Soil information‐sharing and knowledge building for sustainable soil use and management: insights and implications for the 21st century”.

For more details about the report, please contact Julie Ingram, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.