Jane Mills - WP8

Jane Mills - WP8

University of Gloucestershire, United Kingdom – “We’ve identified and are testing potential cropping systems that don’t just improve agricultural soil quality, they boost profitability.” That’s the simple message Jane Mills from the EU-funded SoilCare project is sending to the farming sector this Word Soil Day (5th December 2018).

Farms of all scales – from small organic to large industrial – can implement SoilCare’s Soil-Improving Cropping Systems (SICSs) to potentially cut costs and/or increase yield and quality, while protecting long-term soil health. The optimisation techniques may mean agrochemical inputs like fertilisers and herbicides can be drastically reduced.

SoilCare’s SICS include crop rotation and cover crops, tillage, organic amendments (such as humic acid and green manure), mulches and organic techniques. The project team has identified some specific SICS for farmers to use in preventing a range of soil threats when growing specific crop-types. The team’s review of SICSs also features agronomic techniques that will help optimise any existing cropping system regardless of crop-type or context. “The 16 study sites in SoilCare are now testing a range of SICSs and we are looking forward to learning about their advantages and drawbacks,” says project coordinator Dr Rudi Hessel based at Wageningen Environmental Research in the Netherlands.

The team’s results are timely, coming ahead of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Soil Day, and against a backdrop of the deteriorating health of Europe’s agricultural soils caused by overexploitation and poor management. At a European level, soil erosion affects over 12 million hectares of land – about 7.2% of the total agricultural land – and leads to €1.25 billion loss in crop productivity.

As the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation uses World Soil Day to raise awareness about soil health, it may come as little surprise to find out that soil doesn’t just impact our food supplies, it also helps clean water and lower risks of floods and droughts. More surprising is the SoilCare team’s efforts to treat profitability for farmers as a central priority – a consideration many research projects on environmental health overlook.

 For more information on potential soil-improving cropping systems, visit www.soilcare-project.eu/soil-improving-cropping-systems

Monday, 12 November 2018 11:22

Study Site SICS Trials

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 09:29


Denmark StakeholderMeeting2



 Workshop1 Workshop2
Demo 600x400 Demo2 600x400
Thursday, 07 December 2017 21:45

Caring for the Brown Planet (5th December 2017)

WorldSoilDayLogoThis year Word Soil Day (5th December) has been dedicated to the theme “Caring for the planet starts from the ground”.  This theme captures the essence of the EU-funded project, SoilCare, which is identifying ways in which soil quality can be improved through cropping systems and techniques, benefiting both the profitability of farms and the environment.

Farmers already know the central importance of the soil to their business and its future.  However, current crop production levels are often maintained by increased inputs, such as fertilisers, pesticides and technology which can mask losses in production due to reduced soil quality.  Through a series of workshops, farmers and scientists together have shortlisted a number of soil-improving cropping systems to test in 16 study sites across Europe, including the application of different types of organic material, the use of cover crops, amendments and non-tillage systems. By consulting with stakeholders throughout the project, it is hoped that any promising systems or techniques will be quickly adopted by the farming community, leading ultimately to better soil care.

Project co-ordinator Dr Hessel based at Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) said:

“The first 18 months of the project have been very productive.  We have conducted an extensive review of soil-improving cropping systems and now a number of practices have been identified for testing and we look forward to learning about their advantages, drawbacks and any barriers to adoption”.

Jane Mills, from the Countryside and Community Research Institute [replace with your own name/quote], said,

"In SoilCare we are working closely with farmers, leading machinery manufacturers and policy-makers to ensure that the science is relevant to them and to society.  We will then need to make sure that farmers, advisers and the agricultural industry know about the results of our research, so there can be a shift towards these soil-improving cropping systems across Europe."

The term ‘cropping system’ refers to the crops, crop sequences and management techniques used on a particular agricultural field over a period of years. Cropping systems can be considered soil-improving if they result in an improved soil quality, i.e., in a durable increased ability of the soil to fulfil its functions.


Sunday, 15 October 2017 11:42

Project reports & deliverables

Here is a list of the completed and anticipated project deliverables. 

 Deliverable name  Work package number  Completion/Due date
 D1.1  SoilCare website 1  August 2016 
 D1.2 Data Management Plan (login required) 1 Multiple*

 D2.1 Review report of soil-improving cropping systems - Deliverable Report (Report 6)

         Review report of Soil-improving cropping systems - Full Report (Report 7)

         Non-technical summary of review of soil-improving cropping systems (11 pages)

         Short version of non-technical summary of review of soil-improving cropping systems (4 pages)

2  August 2017
 D2.2 Scientific publications (draft version - login required) 2 April 2020

 D3.1 SoilCare Stakeholder analysis report

        Non-technical summary of SoilCare Stakeholder analysis report (1 page)

3 Februari 2017

 D3.2  List of CS selected for testing in WP5

          Non-technical summary of list of cropping systems for selected for testing (1 page)

3  August 2017
 D3.3 Report on the role of trust and other factors in the adoption and social acceptability of soil-improving innovations 3 August 2020
 D3.4 Report describing final stakeholder workshops held in study sites, detailing stakeholder feedback on preliminary findings 3  October 2020
 D4.1 Final version of assessment methodology for Study Sites (login required) 4 July 2020
 D4.2 Monitoring plan for Study Sites (login required) 4 March 2018
 D5.1 Database with monitoring data (login required) 5 May 2020
 D5.2 Report on demonstration activities in Study Sites 5 April 2020
 D5.3 Report on monitoring results and analysis 5  October 2020
 D6.1 Report on the integration and synthesis of Study Site results and their potential for upscaling 6 April 2020
 D6.2 Report on the potential for applying soil-improving CS across Europe 6 June 2020
 D6.3 Interactive mapping tool for the application of soil-improving CS across Europe 6  October 2020
 D7.1 Inventory of opportunities and bottlenecks in policy to facilitate the adoption of soil-improving techniques 7 Februari 2018 
 D7.2  Report on the selection of good policy alternatives at EU and study site level accompanied by an analysis of their performance on multiple criteria (login required) 7 Februari 2020
 D7.3 Policy briefings translating the scientific evidence to a policy audience 7  February 2021
 D8.1 SoilCare information hub 8  February 2021
 T8.2 Review of soil advice 8 July 2018

 D8.2 SoilCare Dissemination and Communication strategy (login required)

8 February 2017
 D8.3 Final conference to disseminate the project results to a range of stakeholders 8 December 2020
 D8.4 Exploitation and Sustainability plan 8 March 2021


*) This report is updated regularly

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 11:36

Weed management

Weed management is extremely important in agriculture, as weed infestations can ruin the target crop. Two variants are often distinguished, i.e. chemical weed control and mechanical/biological weed control. The first variant makes use of herbicides, while the second variant makes use of mechanical weeding,  ploughing and target crop rotations. The best option is often a combination of the two: integrated weed management. Proper selection of crops in rotation may greatly contribute to weed suppression.  The table below provides links to existing practical information on the use of SICS weed management techniques. 

 Title  Language Country   Format  Description  Link
Crop rotation and its ability to suppress perennial weeds  EN  UK  Report    http://www.agricology.co.uk/resources/people-skills-rotations-organic-matter-cereals-oil-seeds-pulses-crop-nutrition-fertility


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

Thursday, 05 October 2017 12:39

Minimum tillage

Minimum Tillage Or No Tillage (Zero tillage) is a production system in which soil cultivation is kept to the minimum necessary for crop establishment and growth.  The table below provides links to existing practical information on the use of minimum tillage in agriculture.

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

 Title Language Country Format  Description  Link
Cultivation techniques to protect soils EN UK Fact sheet Provides steps to success and a farmer case study http://www.theriverstrust.org/media/2017/04/Pinpoint-23.0-Cultivation-techniques-to-protect-soils-Minimum-tillage.pdf
Minimum tillage EN UK Technical Note Technical requirements for minimum tillage and three farmer case studies https://www.sruc.ac.uk/downloads/download/583/tn553_minimum_tillage
 No Till 101 EN USA Website American webpage with information on no-till systems. https://www.no-tillfarmer.com/topics/88-no-till-101
Soils 3: Compaction EN UK website, videos,  Farmers Academy webpage with videos and information on compaction.


Minimum Tillage Guide

EN UK Guidance document Guidance on minimum tillage from Kuhn Farm Machinery company




Minimum tillage with imported poultry litter and crop rotations EN  UK  Farmer case study The effects and costs on a farm of implmenting minimum tillage over 10 years http://gya.co.uk/docs/Case%20study%2028.pdf


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

Thursday, 05 October 2017 11:11


Intercropping Intercropping is defined as the growth of more than one crop species or cultivar simultaneously in the same field during a growing season. The table below provides links to existing practical information on the use of cover crops in agriculture. 

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

 Title Language Country Format  Description  Link
Guidelines for Intercropping EN USA Website American webpage with comprehensive links on intercropping.


The potential for companion cropping and intercropping on UK arable farms

 EN  UK Website, Report Webpage with information and link to a PDF resource: 'Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust Report'.  http://www.agricology.co.uk/resources/agroforestry-people-skills-cereals-oil-seeds-pulses/potential-companion-cropping-and


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

Thursday, 05 October 2017 10:42

Green Manures

Green manures are fast growing plants that are grown to cover bare soil.  They suppress weeds, protect soil from erosion and add structure.  The table below provides links to existing practical information on the use of green manures in agriculture.

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

 Title Language Country Format  Description  Link
Sort Out Your Soil: a practical guide to Green Manures EN UK Guidance document Guide to green manure management and species details



Green Manures EN UK Website Royal Horitcultural Society webpage providing cultivating and selecting advice.


GREATsoils Videos/Webinars


EN UK Video AHDB website providing information in the form of videos including some featuring green manures.  https://horticulture.ahdb.org.uk/greatsoils-videoswebinars

Green Manures - species selection

EN UK Fact sheet Horticulture Development Company factsheet on types of green manures.



Green manures - effects on soil nutrient management and soil physical and biological properties

EN UK Fact sheet Horticulture Development Company factsheet on effects of green manures on soils.




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


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