Full project title: Interactive Soil Quality Assesment in Europe and China for Agricultural Productivity and Environmental Resilience

Acronym: iSQAPER
Duration: 2015-2020

Project website address: www.isqaper-project.eu
Information website address: www.isqaper-is.eu

The project has received funding from

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European Union

European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme
EU Call Identifier: H2020-SFS-04-2014 Soil quality and function
Grant agreement: 635750
Project Officer: Antonio Pérez-Rendón

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Ministry of Science and Technology
Grant no. 2016YFE011270
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Grant no. 16146KYSB20150001

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Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation.
Contract:  15.0170-1

Project coordinator: Wageningen University, Soil Physics and Land Management Group
EU project representative: Prof. Dr. Coen J. Ritsema (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Project leader: Dr. Luuk Fleskens (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

This website does not necessarily represent the opinion of the European Commission. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that might be made of the information contained herein.



[Ecosystems Services]

1. Disclaimer

All the data and information contained in the iSQAPER Project Information System website (iSQAPERiS) have been subject to a series of rigorous quality assurance procedures. However please note the following.

  1. The editors and authors are not able to guarantee the topicality, accuracy, completeness or quality of any data, information or methodology provided herein.
  2. Parts of this website (including all linked material) may be extended, changed or partly or completely deleted by the editors and authors without separate announcement.
  3. The editors and authors have no responsibility for determining the fitness or suitability of the data, information or methodologies for use by a third party.
  4. Neither iSQAPER nor the European Commission can be held accountable for any loss, damage, injury or any other occurrence arising from their use.
  5. The website contains links to external sites over which iSQAPER has have no control, and for which we have no responsibility.
  6. The information displayed on this website, or in the publications that can be downloaded from here, does not necessarily represent the view of the European Commission.

If you notice information on this website that you believe should be corrected or updated, please contact us. We shall try to remedy the problem.

[This disclaimer is to be regarded as part of the iSQAPER Project Information System website.  If sections or individual terms of this statement are not legal or correct, the content or validity of the other parts remain uninfluenced by this fact.]

2. Copyright and conditions of use of iSQAPER products

The iSQAPERiS website is a proprietary product of the integrated research project Interactive Soil Quality Assesment in Europe and China for Agricultural Productivity and Environmental Resilience (iSQAPER). This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant agreement: 635750); the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences; the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (Contract: 15.0170-1) and is therefore protected by Copyright Law. The full ownership and all copyrights of all data, information and methodologies (including the text, images, audio and video files) contained in this website are reserved.

However, the ethos of the project is to disseminate information and promote further research about soil quality, agricultural productivity and environmental resilience. Consequently, unless otherwise indicated, re-use of content on the website for non-commercial purposes is permitted, free of charge, under the following conditions.

  1. Users are required to acknowledge the relevant author/s and the iSQAPER Project as a whole in all reference or publications that involve the use of iSQAPER data, information or methodology.
  2. If the use of data, information or methodology is extensive, users must offer iSQAPER co-authorship of any proposed publication. iSQAPER will have the right to accept this offer, allow the user to publish in his/her own right, or refuse permission to publish.
  3. Copies of, or a reference to, any publications which refer to these data, information or methodology should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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If the opportunity is given in this website for the input of personal or business data (email address, name, postal address, etc); that input is voluntary. The use of all offered services is permitted (if and so far technically possible and reasonable) without specification of any personal data or under specification of anonymized data or an alias. The use of published postal addresses, telephone or fax numbers and email addresses for marketing purposes is prohibited. Measures will be taken against offenders sending unwanted (spam) messages.


In each of the study sites the iSQAPER team, together with local farmers or land users, identified the main agricultural management practices used locally. The practices vary according to the climatic zone, soil type and crop produced. Some of them were conventional and designed to maximise yield while other innovative* practices were being used with the explicit purpose of also benefitting or improving soil quality. In the European study sites the most common innovative practices were: manuring & composting, crop rotation and minimum tillage. The most common in China were: manuring & composting, residue maintenance/mulching and integrated pest and disease management (incl. organic agriculture). For more details see: »Impact of promising land managment practices

In two separate field campaigns we compared the effects of the innovative to the conventional practices by assessing soil quality of 132 pairs of neighbouring fields. For more details of the visual assessment methods see: »Visual soil and plant quality assessment

Of the original 132, one or two practices per country were identified as having the best proven effectiveness on improving soil quality in that location. Many of these practices are described in the leaflets below which explain the

  • principles of the practice,
  • the soil threat it is designed to address,
  • the scientific evidence for its effectiveness.

*Note: The use of the word innovative to describe some of these practices may look odd; in the history of agriculture crop rotation and manuring are hardly new. However within the context of iSQAPER's study sites these practices represent an improvement over conventional practice and are generally not widely applied in area.

Study site 1: De Peel, Netherlands

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Non-inversion tillage on sandy soils in the Netherlands

Non-inversion tillage causes less disturbance to the soil, resulting in better structure and more organic matter and soil life in the top soil. It has shown positive effects on the structure of clay soils but hasn't been tested intensively on sandy soils.

Study site 3: Cértima, Portugal

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Sewage sludge from domestic waste water treatment in a maize farm

The incorporation of sludge into the soil (as part of a circular economy) increases organic matter content, improving structure and nutrient content. However, long-term application increases the amounts of heavy metals and other trace elements in the soil. Understanding the behaviour of these elements is important to support effective management practices that mitigate contamination.
»PT version

Study site 4: Southeast Spain

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Minimum tillage, permanent soil cover and manure application

Minimum tillage protects the soil from erosion and compaction. Allowing crop residues to remain on the soil and applying additional manure increases the organic matter content and protects the soil.
»ES version

Study site 5: Crete, Greece

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Extensive sustainable grazing

Extensive sustainable grazing is based on a stable animal density below or equal to the sustainable stocking rate. Extensive grazing protects the land from erosion by maintaining a vegetation cover above 40-50%, the threshold below which accelerated erosion occurs.

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Minimum and no tillage

Minimum and no tillage belong to the conservation tillage production system where soil cultivation is kept to the minimum necessary for crop establishment and growth. Under olive groves in Crete both minimum and no tillage can decrease soil disturbance, runoff and soil loss and improve soil water conservation, aggregate stability and water infiltration.

Study site 6: Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Organic farming, broad rotation and organic manure

Using an organic farming system with a five year crop rotation cycle, nitrogen is supplied to the soil by organic fertiliser (from livestock) or by using legumes. Nutrient cycling is kept to a maximum within the farm. The use of chisel ploughs and hoes causes less frequent turning of the soil and maintains a continuous soil cover.
»SI version

Study site 7: Zala County, Hungary

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Farmyard manure application

Matured farmyard manure (from cattle, pigs and horses) is applied every 3 years, before maize in the crop rotation. Storing the manure reduces weed infestation and burying it immediately after spreading avoids nutrient loss. The manure application results in higher soil organic carbon and microbial biomass.

Study site 8: Braila County, Romania

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Water management in arable lands

Sustainable irrigation water management involving irrigation scheduling and technology improves water use efficiency and, in combination with other environmentally friendly technologies, increases soil quality.
»RO version

Study site 10: Tartuuma, Estonia

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Otsekülv (direct seeding)

Using direct seeding crops are grown from year to year without cultivating the soil. Seeds are injected into the soil beneath the residue of the previous crop without loosening the soil structure. Direct seeding is considered to be environmentally friendly because in general less fuel is used and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. However, there is a risk that costs pesticides increase as ploughing and tillage help to reduce weeds and the spread of pests. (in Estonian)

Study sites 11 and 14: Qiyang and Gongzhuling, China

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Crop rotation, fertilization and green manure

Agricultural measures such as the combined application of organic and inorganic fertilizers, green manure, crop rotation and straw return are in line with Chinese national "weight loss and efficiency" principles and can improve fertility while maintaining foor production.
»CN version

Study site 12: Suining, China

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Straw mulching and no tillage

The return of straw to the soil surface as a mulch after harvest combined with no tillage is a popular practice in Sichuan. Both measures are aimed at better soil regeneration and conditions for agriculture, increased yield and less soil degradation.
»CN version


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