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.



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


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


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 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..

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 addrss 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


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

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 General Treatment Category Study Site Trials
Belgium   Tillage, cover crops, amendments  

1. Organic soil amendments in wheat fields - mineral fertilization, soil pig manure, VFG compost, wood chips and 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; Control- normal ploughing

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

Norway   Cover crops

1. Biological compaction release (4 levels of compaction) - Cover crop with deep root crops (3 types of crops); No cover crops

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)

 Hungary Crop rotations, tillage, fertilization

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

Switzerland   Crop rotations, fertilization, controlled traffic

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)