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Friday, 26 April 2019 11:10

New SoilCare Booklet for Farmers

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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

Friday, 26 April 2019 10:28

New SoilCare Films

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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 

Thursday, 25 April 2019 15:28

Project Leaflets

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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. 


Soil Threat-Specific SICS Fact Sheets

A series of fact sheets are being produced that provide an overview of promising crop types and management techniques for
addressing specific soil threats: 

SICS for Erosion

Thursday, 25 April 2019 09:07

New Report: Review of Soil Advice

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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.


Monday, 25 March 2019 17:38


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A full list of SoilCare's project reports can be found on this page..


All the latest news from the SoilCare project....


The SoilCare newsletters..


 News and stories from the field...


The SoilCare project has produced a wide range of videos...

Project leaflets

The SoilCare project introductory leaflet provides details of the aims and objectives of the project and the partners involved. It is available in 14 different languages

Policy briefs

The SoilCare project has produced a number of concise summaries of particular soil-related issues identified in the project with some recommendations for policy options.

Policy Scenarios

The SoilCare project is developing a set of future scenarios...

Scientific publications

On this page you will find a list of peer-reviewed scientific publications from the project…

Media coverage

Details of all the media coverage that the SoilCare project has received...

Press Releases

A list of all press releases issued by the SoilCare project...


List of soil-related words and terms..

Monday, 25 March 2019 17:07


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Compaction-specific SICS prevent compaction and/or lower the density of the soil, increase the water infiltration rate, lower the penetration resistance, and improve soil structure. They address the cause of compaction as well as compaction itself and its effects. Compaction-specific SICS mainly involve substitution and redesign mechanisms.

The table below provides links to existing practical information on the use of practices to address the causes of compaction as well as the compaction itself

 Title Language Country Format  Description  Link
Terranimo - decision support tool EN DK/SZ Website A computer model that predicts the risk of soil compaction by farm machinery https://www.terranimo.world/CH/About.aspx?language=en
Preventing soil compaction - preserving and restoring soil fertility EN, DE Germany Guide Soil compaction guidance and advice

English: https://www.umwelt.nrw.de/fileadmin/redaktion/Broschueren/bodenverdichtung_broschuere_en.pdf

German: https://www.umwelt.nrw.de/fileadmin/redaktion/Broschueren/bodenverdichtung_broschuere.pdf


This page is constantly under review, and its contents may change.



Monday, 12 November 2018 11:22

Study Site SICS Trials

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During the stakeholder workshops at the 16 SoilCare study sites, stakeholders successfully evaluated a range of soil-improving cropping systems, and reached a short-list of interventions for field trials. Details concerning these trials are presented in the following table:

Country SICS cluster Study Site Trials
Belgium   Fertilization & amendments/Soil cultivaton 

1. Organic soil amendments in wheat fields - mineral fertilization, soil pig manure, VFG compost, wood chips and solid pig manure + lava grit

2. Soil cultivation and soil cover in maize - strip till in living rye cover crop; Strip till in destroyed rye cover crop; Undersowing grass; Non inversion tillage +herbicide; Control- normal ploughing

3. Demonstration fields - Novel crops- perennial wheat, soybeans, winter field beans, lupins (control: winter wheat); Controlled traffic

Norway   Compaction/Soil-improving crops

1. Biological compaction release (4 levels of compaction) - Rotation barley- oilseed- barley; Rotation oilseed- barley - oilseed; Barley only; Alfalfa in rotation with barley

2. Cover crop - Catch crop - Undersown of Mix 1: Chicory, perennial ryegrass and alfalfa; Undersown of Mix 2: White clover, “Birdsfoot trefoil” and crimson clover; Sown after harvest Mix 3: Forage radish and ww. Ryegrass; Sown after harvest Mix 4: vetch, hairy vetch and pisum; No cover crop (Barley)

3. Precision agriculture (demonstration)



Soil cultivation

1. Organic/inorganic N fertilization

2. Mineral fertilization in continuous maize cropping

3. Organic/inorganic fertilization in different rotation

4. Tillage in maize-wheat biculture










Soil improving crops,compaction

1. Herbert Schär: Impact of grass verges to reduce compaction – Area with grass verges and no grass verges (in culture) are compared, while both areas are driven on with the same weight.

2. Urs Dietiker: Under-foot fertilisation after CULTAN for direct nitrogen supply to the plants – (specific machinery for direct application of fertilization directly to the roots) – The CULTAN technique (2 total fertilisations - first starting fertilisation, same on entire field) is compared to the organic fertilisation with pig manure (2 total fertilisations - first starting fertilisation, same on entire field) and the mineral fertilisation of pig manure and Lonza-Sol (3 total fertilisations - first starting fertilisation, same on entire field), both distributed on the soil surface.

3. Urs Steinmann: Green manuring and minimum tillage to avoid usage of Glyphosate – Comparison of the usage of glyphosate versus green manuring and minimum tillage in different contexts.

Denmark  Crop rotations, tillage, fertilization

1. CROPSYS crop rotations, organic and conventional/row cropping with catch crops - Rotation (O2,O4,C4),O2 organic (S. barley: ley, Grass‑clover, spring wheat, spring oats), O4 organic (S. barley, Faba bean, Spring wheat, Spring oats), C4 conventional (S. barley, Faba bean, Spring wheat, Spring oats). +/- catch crop, +/- manure

2. CENTS / soil tillage intensities and cover crops (maybe) - Ploughed/harrowed/direct drilled, crop type, catch crop type, +/- straw

3. Screening different types of catch crops (maybe) - Different species of cover crops. This year also including mixtures of different species

4. Askov and Samsø / as demonstrated during the 2018 annual meeting excursion (demonstration)

5. Askov and Jyndevad / experiments with different levels of fertilization and liming (LT)

United Kingdom
Crop rotations, tillage, fertilization

1.Compaction alleviation experiment in no-till system - No till without alleviation (control); Ploughing; Low disturbance sub soiling; Mycorrhyzal inoculant. Barley in Year 1, Field Beans in Year 2.

2. Deep-rooting ley grass cultivars in arable rotation – 5 modern deep rooting ley grass cultivars; Mixture of ryegrass and clover (control). Low disturbance sub-soiling and unharvested treatments have been superimposed on the experimental plots.

Germany Tillage, cover crops

1. Effect of cover crop termination with Glyphosate on soil microorganisms - Glyphosate with cover crop; Glyphosate free with cover crop; Control 1: Glyphosate free + hand weeding; Control 2: Glyphosate only

Romania Tillage

1. Tillage experiments - Deep ploughing (30cm); Subsoiling (50 cm); Non inversion till; 2 disk ploughing

Italy Tillage, cover crops

1. Loss of SOM and Compaction control - Mouldboard plough and bare soil; Mouldboard plough and deep rooting cover crop (tillage radish); No tillage and bare soil; No tillage and deep rooting cover crop (tillage radish)

Poland Cover crops, liming

1. Soil management practices - Control- mineral fertilization; Liming (CaCO3 5,6 t/ha); Cover crops ( Lupines +Serradella + Phacellia, respectively: 130 + 30 + 4 kg/ha ); Manure (30t/ha); Liming (CaCO3 5,6 t/ha) + Lupines + Serradella + Phacellia (130 + 30 + 4 kg/ha) + manure (10 t/ha)

Portugal Crop rotations, cover crops, fertilization

1. Bico da Barca - Organic rice in rotation with perennial lucerne - Conventional rice monoculture (Control); Organic rice in rotation with perennial Lucerne (2 years of rice + 2 years of Lucerne)

2. Taveiro – Conventional grain corn in succession with legumes winter cover - Conventional grain corn with Red Clover as cover crop in winter; Conventional grain corn with Persian clover as cover crop in winter; Conventional grain corn with yellow lupine as cover crop in winter; Conventional grain corn with white lupine as cover crop in winter; Conventional grain corn with no cover crop in winter (fallow- control)

3. São Silvestre - Conventional grain corn fertilized by urban sludge - Grain corn receiving urban sludge fertilization; Grain corn receiving conventional mineral fertilization (control)

Greece Cover crops, tillage, crop change

1. Soil erosion rate assessment - No till in organic olive orchards; Conventional till (15-20 cm) in organic olive orchards; Conversion from orange orchard to avocado; Conventional orange orchard; Cover crop (vetch) in organic vineyards; Bare soil in organic vineyards

Sweden Sub soil loosening, tillage

1. Sub soil loosening - Sub soiling loosening; Sub soiling loosening with straw pellets; Normal mouldboard ploughing - control

Czech Republic Tillage, fertilization

1. Tillage experiments and different N application - No till (all residues on surface); Reduced till (chisel ploughing up to 10cm-min 30% residues on soil surface); Conventional till (mouldboard ploughing up to 22 cm

Spain Cover crops, tillage, irrigation management

1. Desertification, wind erosion and organic matter decline - Regulated vs Constant Deficit Irrigation and Minimum tillage in olive orchards; Regulated vs Constant Deficit Irrigation and Minimum tillage plus pruning residues added in olive orchards; Regulated vs Constant Deficit Irrigation and Minimum Tillage plus temporal cover crops (natural weeds and sowed) in olive orchards; Regulated vs standard irrigation and non-tillage (herbicide weed control) in peach orchards; Regulated vs standard irrigation and Non-tillage plus pruning residues added and temporal natural vegetation in peach orchards; Regulated vs standard irrigation and Non-tillage plus pruning residues and temporal cover crops sowed in peach orchards

France Cover crops, sowing management, tillage

1. Early sowing of wheat (August vs September vs end of October) (2 or 3 treatments) - Cover crops (oat vs mixed) (2 treatments); Soil tillage and soil cover (3 treatments)

Soil-Improving Cropping Systems selected for testing in Study Sites


 Study site  Short-listed SICS Comments
 Belgium  1.Application of different types of organic fertilizers: wood chips, cut and carry fertilizers, bokashi, compared to compost and solid manure.
2.Maize: undersown with grass, strip-till in existing grassland, ordinary strip till compared to conventional tillage.
3.Precision farming: site-specific application of compost and or wood chips; field scan (pH, OM content) before and after the trial, yield mapping.
4.Controlled traffic: implemented in at least one field, measurements of soil characteristics, crop growth and yield in and outside the roadways.
5.Novel crops: perennial cereals (if seeds are available) and soya, in at least one field, measurement of soil and crop characteristics and yield potential (in comparison with traditional crops).
Scientific trials (with layout of treatments and replications, execution of measurements and observations)
 Norway  1. Precision agriculture
2. Biological compaction release
3. Cover crops
Demonstration trials (with execution of measurements and observations)
 Hungary  1. Leguminous crops
2. Farmyard manure
3. Crop rotation
 Switzerland  No single system chosen, but likely to be controlled traffic (comparison of a plot where limiting compression by weight is applied, with plot without limiting compression), green manure or the Controlled Uptake Long Term Ammonium Nutrition
Measures will need to be looked at in suitable combinations and will depend on location of field trials chosen, experimental set up and monitoring

 1.Ploughing contra no ploughing systems



2.Row (Alley) cropping systems



3.Crop rotations with and without grass / Clover (with grass varying amounts of grass and other crops); technologies for row/alley cropping "micro- rotations"

4.Liming experiments (long term effects of dose


5.Long term effects of manure and fertilizer practices


6. Lap and trial

Less ploughing is also demonstrated in the row cropping experiment at Samsø (with Gunnar Mikkelsen), where strips of green manure clover grass is not ploughed.

Tested/demonstrated at the farm of Anders Lund where the cereals are sown in rows, and at Samsø (with Gunnar Mikkelsen), where strips of green manure clover grass is not ploughed. Moreover we have row cropping experiments at the AU Field Station in Foulum.




As at the long term experiments at St. Jyndevad

As in the long term experiments at Askov. Moreover the fields with Gunnar Mikkelsen/ Samsø is fertilized with compost recycled from urban areas)

The whole island of Samsø as a full scale demonstration lap and trial, via scenarios and impacts assessments of possible soilcaring transitions of the farming in the island


 1. Amendments

 2. Compaction

3. Grass leys


 1. Cover crops

2. Conservation tillage

3. Either undersown cover crops or Glyphosate-free conservation agriculture


1. Narrow rotation + legumes; balanced mineral fertilization; sprinkler irrigation; deep ploughing; weeds and pests control

2. Narrow rotation + legumes; balanced mineral
fertilization; amendments; minimum tillage; weeds and pests control

3. Narrow rotation + root crops; balanced mineral fertilization; sprinkler irrigation; deep ploughing; weeds and pests control

4. Narrow rotation + root crops; balanced mineral fertilization; organic fertilization; deep ploughing; weeds and pests control


1. Crop rotation

2. Green manures, cover crops, catch crops

3. Integrated nutrient management


1. Soil improving crops: cover crops - legumes: lupines + serradella + phacelia (130+30+4 kg/ha)
2. Amendments: A: Manure 30 t/ha, oat, wheat, triticale

3. Amendments: B: Liming CaCO3 5.6 t/ha S/R, oat, wheat, triticale.


1. New rotation systems
- Rice/lucerne 4 year rotation
- Maize rotation with 3 crop types over 4 years

2. Organic fertilization using urban sludge

3. Reduced soil mobilization (vertical tillage, multi- task planting, controlled traffic)

Greece 1. Terracing
2. Contour ridging
3. No tillage or minimum tillage

1.Sub-soil loosening plus straw incorporation compared to loosening with liming

2. Introduction of cover crops (such as bluebell (Sw. honungsört = Phacelia spp.), melilot (Melilotus officinalis = Sw. sötväppling) or a mixture of cover crop species)

Spain 1. Cover crops
2. Increasing organic matter by chopping pruning wood
3. Implementation of deficit irrigation strategies on
stone fruit trees and olive

1. Grassland management including: aération, Vibrosem or grassland fissuring and grass seed mixtures
2. Reduced cultivation
3.Nitrate-trap crops
- Early crops sowing, in order to generate a bigger tillering and to profit of a maximum of nitrogen, with frost-susceptible cover crops (e.g. buckwheat, Egyptian clover) to limit weeds and diseases

- Cover-crop sowed under rapeseed


Czech Republic

1. Application of limy materials


2. Applications of manures, composts, crop residues, and the other sources of organic matter


3. Reduced/non-reduced soil cultivation

Increasing of soil buffering capacity (experimental results of long-term experiments)

Increasing of acid-neutralizing capacity of the soil and improving of SOM content (long-term field experiments with application of different kind and application doses
of organic fertilisers)

Study of impacts of different cultivation technologies (with/without ploughing, minimum tillage) on soil quality, fertility, as water flows, microorganisms, texture and structure

Tuesday, 29 May 2018 07:46

Plenary meeting in Billund started

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Today, Tuesday,  May 29th 2018, the 3rd plenary meeting of the SoilCare project has started. The SoilCare resarchers were welcomed by AgroIntelli director Ole Green and Tommy Dalgaard, teamleader of the Aarhus University SoilCare team, the two SoilCare partners who are hosting this meeting.

Welcome speeches of the AgroIntelli and Aarhus University hosts and SoilCare project leader Rudi Hessel were given, followed by an overview of recent developments in soil science, given bij Oene Oenema.

Today also an introduction of Advisory Board member Hein ten Berge was given, who is joining this plenary meeting as an external expert and who will give a first-impression-feedback on his findings on Wednesday. The rest of the day is reserved for various WP presentations.

Friday, an excursion has been organised to the Askov Research Centre (Aarhus University) to see the 120 years long-term experiment. Below an impression of the ongoing meeting.
















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