Jane Mills - WP8

Jane Mills - WP8

Friday, 30 September 2016 15:57

Press Releases

Caring for the Brown Planet

This 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 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.


Better Soils to Boost Crop Productivity (5th December 2016)

World Soil Day, (5th December) is the one day in the year that the United Nations asks us all to think about the role of soil in our daily lives. 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. The new project, SoilCare, is looking to investigate ways in which soil quality can be improved through cropping systems and techniques, benefiting both the profitability of farms and the environment. Such soil improvement is necessary to beak the negative spiral of soil degradation, increased inputs, increased costs and damage to the environment.

The project brings scientists from 16 countries across Europe together to work on trial plots where cropping systems will be tested to find out how improving the soil can boost productivity. Working on 16 trials across Europe that represent not only different climatic conditions but soil types and crop types, the project is looking to solutions that can be quickly adopted by farmers. All of the test sites have been chosen because they are have access to significant bodies of historical data so that any new measures or techniques developed can be quickly made available to the industry.

Project co-ordinator Dr Hessel based at the University of Wageningen said;

"Farmers have known for years that the secret to their success lies in the soil, and we as scientists are actively working with them to find answers that both benefit the soil but also improve outputs. Through this project, we can consider problems such as compaction, weed management, water availability on sites that we have decades of data about. As we have such a range of locations, we can consider a diversity of crops such as olives in warm, dry areas through to Rye in colder climes as well as pulses and oilseeds. "

Dr Julie Ingram, from the Countryside and Community Research Institute, said,

"One of the products of this project will be an interactive tool to allow decision-makers to select cropping systems that will benefit the soil, and so guard one of our most valuable assets. In the past, the scientific community assumed that just doing the research was enough. Through SoilCare we are working with farmers, but also leading machinery manufacturers and policy-makers to make sure they are aware of the findings. One of our most important goals is to ensure that farmers and the agricultural industry know about the results of these trials, so there can be a shift to soil boosting cropping systems across Europe."


Friday, 30 September 2016 15:22

Project Leaflets

Leaflet frontpageThe SoilCare project introductory leaflet provides details of the aims and objectives of the project and the partners involved. An English version of the leaflet can be downloaded here.

The leaflet is also available in the following 15 languages and can be downloaded from here:

Czech (CZ)

Danish (DK)

English (GB)

German (DE)

Spanish (ES)

French (FR)

Greek (GR)

Hungarian (HU)

Italian (IT)

Dutch (NL)

Norwegian (NO)

Polish (PL)

Portugese (PT)

Romanian (RO)

Swedish (SE)

Friday, 30 September 2016 15:18

Media Centre

Welcome to the SoilCare Project's Media Centre. If you're looking for story ideas, want to look through our latest press releases and news or find out more about the project all the details you need are below.

Our latest news and archived news items can be found here.

Project leaflets providing details about the SoilCare project are available in 14 different languages here. All the SoilCare newsletters are available here. If you would like to receive the SoilCare newsletters you can subscribe here.

Friday, 30 September 2016 09:47

Soil-Improving Cropping Systems

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 System (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.

 Nr  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

 Nr  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


Thursday, 22 September 2016 20:03

Study Sites

Within SoilCare, the aim is to identify, select and assess different soil-improving cropping systems (CS) in Europe to determine their effects on soil quality, environment, crop yield, profitability and sustainability using a range of advanced methodologies and assessment procedures, core elements being a soil quality evaluation and analysis at the farm level (costs and benefits) and surrounding environments (ecosystem services). As different conditions require the use of different cropping systems, and the applicability, profitability and environmental impacts of the different systems and techniques will vary across Europe, SoilCare is working in 16 different Study Sites covering different pedo-climatic, socio-economic and political conditions. Within the Study Sites, different soil-improving CS will be selected, tested and evaluated in collaboration with stakeholders, after which Study Site results will be upscaled to European level.

The table below gives an overview of the SoilCare project Study Sites in the partner countries.

No. Name Country   Study Site Leader Study Site Deputy Study Site Info (poster)
1 Flanders BE Annemie Elsen Mia Tits Poster 2018
2 Akershus NO Jannes Stolte Lillian Oygarden Poster 2018
3 Keszthely HU  Tamas Kismanyoky Zoltan Toth  Poster 2018
4 Frauenfeld CH  Abdallah Alaoui Etienne Diserens Poster 2018
5 Viborg DK  Tommy Dalgaard Gitte Holton Rubaek  Poster 2018
6 Loddington GB  Chris Stoate  Felicity Crotty Poster 2018
7 Tachenhausen DE  Carola Pekrun  Moritz Hallama  Poster A 2018, Poster B 2018
8 Draganesti Vlasca   RO  Irina Calciu  Olga Petruta Vizitiu Poster 2018
9 Legnaro IT  Antonio Berti  Francesco Morari  Poster 2018
10 Szaniawy  PL  Jerzy Lipiec  Boguslaw Uszowicz Poster 2018
11 Caldeirao PT  Antonio Ferreira  Carla Ferreira Poster 2018
12 Chania  GR  Ioannis Tsanis Ioannis Daliakolpoulos Poster 2018
13 Orup  SE  Gunnar Borjeson  Martin Bolinder  Poster 2018
14 Prague-Ruzyne  CZ  Pavel Cermak  Helena Kusa  Poster 2018
15 Almeria  ES  Julian Cuevas  Virginia Pinillos Poster 2018
16 Brittany  FR  Goulven Marechal  Gaëtan Johan  Poster 2018


An overview of SICS to be trialled in each Study Site can be viewed here

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