Soil quality: assessment, indicators & management

These are the source documents for the iSQAPERiS section »Soil quality: assessment, indicators & management.

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In this report we critically review the existing soil quality concepts and soil quality indicators on which the interactive tool will be based. We start by introducing the relevant definitions and terminology.This is followed by an overview of the various national soil quality concepts based on quantitative laboratory measurements. Visual soil evaluation has been reviewed recently (Emmet-Booth et al., 2016). so we include just a short presentation of visual approaches. The choice of soil quality indicators is then discussed in-depth with respect to requirements of indicators, methods to select a minimum dataset, a compilation of the most frequently proposed indicators, and the interpretation of indicator values, including how to derive a soil quality index. This is followed by a section on potential novel biological soil quality indicators.Finally, conclusions are drawn with respect to development of a novel conceptual framework for soil quality assessment. In particular, the suitability of different indicators with respect to sensitivity to indicate soil threats and functions, while being reliable, simple and cost-effective, is evaluated, and a set of parameters proposed which can be used for soil quality assessment in various pedo-climatic zones in Europe and China.

Please cite as: Bünemann, E. K. et al. (2016) Concepts and indicators of soil quality - a review. iSQAPER Project Deliverable 3.1 75 pp Available at www.isqaper-is.eu/documents

In this review we evaluate six soil quality indicators (yield, soil organic matter/carbon (SOM/SOC), pH, aggregate stability, water holding capacity, and earthworms) for five pairs of agricultural management practices (organic matter addition versus no organic matter input, no-tillage versus conventional tillage, crop rotation versus monoculture, irrigation versus non-irrigation, and organic agriculture versus conventional agriculture) using data from 72 long-term field experiments and 900 published papers and reports.

We conclude that all the management practices affect the soil quality indicators, but they do so in various ways. Overall, there are clear trends and relative changes, but the magnitude of the trends and direction of change vary with crop species, climate zone and soil type. Earthworms appears to be the most sensitive indicator for all the five management practices. SOC/SOM also responds positively after 23 years (on average in this study). Water holding capacity, aggregate stability and yield are less sensitive and pH the least of all.

Please cite as: Bai, Z. et al. (2016) Critical review of soil quality indicators with respect to their sensitivity to indicate soil functions and interactions with management as well as reliability and simplicity of measurement. iSQAPER Project Deliverable 3.2 123 pp. Available at www.isqaper-is.eu/documents

Methods for visually assessing 14 soil and 6 plant quality criteria.

Please cite as Alaoui, A. (2018) Visual Soil Quality Assessment Manual v2: assessment of soil and plant quality for the season 2018.  iSQAPER Report  49 pp. Available at www.isqaper-is.eu/documents.

Methods for visually assessing 11 soil quality criteria, provided as supplemental material for the manuscript: Alaoui, A, Barão, L, Ferreira, CS, et al. Visual assessment of the impact of agricultural management practices on soil quality. Agronomy Journal. 2020; 112: 2608– 2623. https://doi.org/10.1002/agj2.20216

Please cite as: Alaoui, A. and Schwilch, G. (2016) Soil quality and agricultural management practices inventory at case study sites.  iSQAPER Report  29 pp. Available at www.isqaper-is.eu/documents.

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