The iSQAPER Toolkit - an interconnected approach to soil quality assessment
iSQAPER has developed a ‘toolkit’ that can be used to help policy makers, researchers and land managers to better monitor and assess soils at local, regional and continental scales, for better decision making and improved soil quality. These tools should be also incorporated in the European Green Deal policy architecture in order to better account for the crucial role soil quality.
- A Holistic Set of Soil Quality Indicators - To assess soil quality, an indicator set consisting of chemical, physical and biological indicators is recommended with guidance for the interpretation of indicator values. In addition to well-established indicators, promising novel ones include labile carbon and soil biological indicators.
»Element 1: Soil quality indicators
- In Field Soil Assessment – Empowering Farms and Land Users - Soil Assessment commences by observations in the field, offering valuable real time insights. Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) combined with simple in-field assessment techniques has been demonstrated under iSQAPER to provide a reliable basis for the on-going evaluation of key soil quality parameters at the farm level. Under iSQAPER a manual has been developed to determine how to robustly assess the impact of agricultural management practices on soil quality using VSA.
»Element 2: In-field soil assessment – empowering farms and land users
- The SQAPP (smart phone app) – Integrating soil and landscape data to make recommendations on farm – presents an overview of an unprecedented number of soil quality and soil threat indicators in a single app for any location in the world based on global data. For each indicator, the app user can benchmark conditions in their field against all locations featuring a similar combination of climate and soil type. Through reviewing and revising these data and specifying a few conditions at the field level, the app user subsequently receives recommendations about practices to integrally improve those aspects of soil quality in which their field performs below-average.
»Element 3: SQAPP - Integrating soil and landscape data to make recommendations on farm
- Informed Decision Making - the Adoption of Improved Agricultural Management Practices in Europe - A great deal of soil quality monitoring is done, but there is a need for this data to be more systematically linked to Agricultural Management Practices (AMPs). Results from long-term experiments as well as farm surveys reveal that certain AMPs such as reduced tillage, organic agriculture, organic matter inputs and crop rotation positively affect soil quality, but with trade-offs between different ecosystem services. Tailored combinations of AMPs are shown to be more effective than individual solutions.
»Element 4: Adoption of improved agricultural management practices
- Field Trials – it remains important to test AMPs in field to understand combinations, effectively monitor where and how they interact with different soils and some messages on how to do this. This should be done with site-specific soil, water and temperature regimes, in order to separate the different effects of the variables and interactions. iSQAPER has done a significant amount of work in refining this approach.
»Element 5: Field trials of agricultural management practices
- Modelling and scenario analysis completed on upscaling AMP adoption has identified that targeted intervention focusing on the most vulnerable regions can produce dramatic improvements in soil quality and associated ecosystem services.
»Element 6: A regional modelling and scenario tool