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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.

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 

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 FrenchSpanish, Greek, Polish and English. More languages are to follow soon.