One of the key aims of SoilCare is to identify, test and evaluate soil-improving cropping systems (SICS) that will increase the profitability and sustainability of agriculture across Europe. 

SoilCare defines soil improving cropping systems (SICS) as cropping systems that improve soil quality (and hence its functions), and that have positive impacts on the profitability and sustainability of cropping systems. Cropping systems refer to both crop type, crop rotation, and associated agronomic management techniques.  The proof of the SICS concept is in the prioritization of specific crop rotations and specific agro-management techniques, and the subsequent optimization.



Soil Improving Cropping Systems (SICS)   

     Crop rotations & agro-management techniques  
  • Cereals with oil seed crops

  • Cereals with beans & peas

  • Cereals with leys & legumes

  • Cereals with root crops

  • Cereals with vegetables

  • Cereals with flowers

  • Rotations with horticulture

  • Permanent cropping systems

  • Mixed crop - animal systems

     Prioritization & Optimization    


The SICS that have been selected by SoilCare study site stakeholders for field trials are presented HERE.

Two categories of SICS have been distinguished in SoilCare:

  1. - soil threat specific SICS, which mitigate the threat and alleviate its effects, and
  2. - general SICS, which enhance soil quality and soil functions in general.

Prioritization of crop types and agro-management technique in soil threat-specific SICS.

   No  Soil threat-specific SICS  Priority crop types  Priority agro-management techniques  
  1   Acidification  No specific crop type  Liming, manuring  
   2  Erosion  Permanent groundcover,
 Deep-rooting crops
 Cereals with cover crops
 Alfalfa, Agroforestry
landscape management,
Contour traffic
Proper timing of activities
  3 Compaction Deep-rooting crops,
Cereals, perennial rye, alfalfa
Controlled traffic
Low wheel load, low tyre pressures
Proper timing of activities
  4 Pollution Biofuel crops
Some fodder crops
No leafy vegetables
No use of polluted inputs
Tree lines to scavenge air-born pollution
  5 Organic matter decline Permanent groundcover,
deep-rooting crops
Cereals with cover crops, alfalfa
Minimum tillage,
Residue return, Mulching
  6 Biodiversity loss Crop diversification Manuring, minimum tillage, residue return,
No pesticides,
Minimal fertilization
  7  Salinization Salt-tolerant crops Drainage
Targeted irrigation
  8 Flooding Flooding-tolerant crops Drainage
Landscape management
  9  Landslides Deep-rooting crops, trees Landscape management,
No arable cropping
  10 Desertification Deep-rooting C4 crops Landscape management  


Prioritization of crop types and agro-management technique in general SICS

   No  Targets of general SICS  Priority crop types  Priority agro-management techniques  
   a Soil structure improvement Permanent groundcover,
Deep-rooting crops
Cereals with cover crops
Alfalfa, clovers
Minimum tillage,
Proper timing of activities
   b Balanced nutrition No specific crops  Fertilization based on soil fertility and plant leaf analyses, targeted manuring  
  c Increasing crop yield High-yielding crop varieties Proper timing of activities, in-depth soil analyses, frequent field observation, targeted irrigation, fertilization, pest management and weed control  
  d Coping with and benefiting from spatial variations in soil quality No specific crops Establishing relationships between spatial variations in soil quality and spatial variations in crop yield,
Variable rate tillage, liming, manuring, irrigation seeding, fertilization, and crop management.
   e Improving soil quality, farm profitability and cropping system sustainability Wide crop rotations with high values crops, leguminous crops, cover crops Site-specific optimization of the agro-management techniques  


A non-technical summary of a review of soil-improving cropping systems (in English) can be viewed here HERE. A shorter 4-page summary is also available HERE.

Some voluntary guidelines for sustainable soil management (in French) are available HERE