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Special Issue "Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2015)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Tiziano Gomiero

Independent consultant and researcher on multi-criteria farming and food system analysis, agro-energies, environmental issues, Treviso, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +39 3204643496
Interests: integrated analysis of farming systems; agroecology; organic agriculture; biotechnologies in agriculture (GMOs); biofuels; environmental conservation; biodiversity; ecological economics; societal metabolism

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since the advent of agriculture, human beings in societies have been inextricably dependent on “the soil” for their livelihoods. As soon as soil health was compromised, so was agriculture, and in turn, the lives of people. In the last few decades, the adoption of intensive agricultural practices, new patterns of food consumption (e.g., the high intake of meat) and increasing demographic pressure, all threaten soil health nearly everywhere in the world. Notwithstanding the achievements of the Green Revolution, 900 million people suffer from chronic undernourishment, while fertile soil is lost to urbanization and biofuel production. In most regions, soil is being degraded at a high pace. Considering that fresh water is also overexploited almost everywhere, it is not difficult to forecast that by continuing on this path, we will face serious problems soon. At present, the fact that most of the human population is urbanized may lead us to forget our dependence on soil, and to forget the people who produce our food.

Aldo Leopold was right, now, more than ever, when warning, back in 1949, “Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land.

In the spirit of Leopold's warning, a message was launched by the 68th UN General Assembly, which declared 2015 the International Year of Soils (http://www.fao.org/soils-2015/en/). The objectives of the IYS 2015 include: raising full awareness among civil society and decision-makers about the profound importance of soil for human life and supporting effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources.

This Special Issue aims to support the UN initiative by gathering stimulating contributions that can raise awareness on critical issues concerning soil management and conservation. Contributions are welcome on any aspect related to the sustainable management of soils, with topics concerning: agricultural practices, food security, land degradation, soil monitoring, soil contamination, urban sprawl, and social, economic, and policy issues.

Articles should clearly state the problem addressed, provide a consistent analysis, and offer possible, reasoned solutions. Given the complex nature of the problems, contributions embracing an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach are especially welcome.

The texts, while meeting high scientific standards, should, at the same time, be able to convey their message to a wider audience, such as policy makers, professionals, and civil society. The goal of the Special Issue is to offer relevant information to research fellows and civil society to help them deal with the problems of sustainably managing soils.

Dr. Tiziano Gomiero
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • soil health
  • soil degradation
  • soil monitoring
  • soil preservation
  • sustainable agriculture
  • soil and water nexus
  • agriculture policy
  • soil biodiversity
  • soil and climate change
  • soil and food security
  • soil and local communities
  • land grabbing
  • soil and society

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Improving Farming Practices for Sustainable Soil Use in the Humid Tropics and Rainforest Ecosystem Health
Sustainability 2016, 8(9), 841; doi:10.3390/su8090841
Received: 25 April 2016 / Revised: 17 August 2016 / Accepted: 19 August 2016 / Published: 29 August 2016
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Abstract
Unsustainable farming practices such as shifting cultivation and slash-and-burn agriculture in the humid tropics threaten the preservation of the rainforest and the health of the local and global environment. In weathered soils prone to cohesion in humid tropic due to low Fe and
[...] Read more.
Unsustainable farming practices such as shifting cultivation and slash-and-burn agriculture in the humid tropics threaten the preservation of the rainforest and the health of the local and global environment. In weathered soils prone to cohesion in humid tropic due to low Fe and carbon content and the enormous amounts of P that can be adsorbed, sustainable soil use is heavily dependent on the availability and efficient use of nutrients. This paper reviews the literature in the field and provides some insights about sustainable soil use in the humid tropics, mainly for the Brazilian Amazonia region. Careful management of organic matter and physical and chemical indicators is necessary to enhance root growth and nutrient uptake. To improve the rootability of the arable layer, a combination of gypsum with continuous mulching to increase the labile organic matter fraction responsible for the formation of a short-lived structure important for root growth is recommended, rather than tillage. Unlike mulching, mechanical disturbance via ploughing of Amazonian soils causes very rapid and permanent soil organic matter losses and often results in permanent recompaction and land degradation or anthropic savannization; thus, it should be avoided. Unlike in other regions, like southeast Brazil, saturating the soil solely with inorganic potassium and nitrogen soluble fertilizers is not recommended. Nutrient retention in the root zone can be enhanced if nutrients are added in a slow-release form and if biologically mediated processes are used for nutrient release, as occurs in green manure. Therefore, an alternative that favors using local resources to increase the supply of nutrients and offset processes that impair the efficiency of nutrient use must be pursued. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
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Open AccessArticle A Worldwide Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Drained Organic Soils
Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 371; doi:10.3390/su8040371
Received: 23 December 2015 / Revised: 7 April 2016 / Accepted: 8 April 2016 / Published: 15 April 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1901 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Despite the importance of organic soils, including peatlands, in the global carbon cycle, detailed information on regional and global emissions is scarce. This is due to the difficulty to map, measure, and assess the complex dynamics of land, soil, and water interactions needed
[...] Read more.
Despite the importance of organic soils, including peatlands, in the global carbon cycle, detailed information on regional and global emissions is scarce. This is due to the difficulty to map, measure, and assess the complex dynamics of land, soil, and water interactions needed to assess the human-driven degradation of organic soils. We produced a new methodology for the comprehensive assessment of drained organic soils in agriculture and the estimation of the associated greenhouse gas emissions. Results indicated that over 25 million hectares of organic soils were drained worldwide for agriculture use, of which about 60% were in boreal and temperate cool areas, 34% in tropical areas, and 5% in warm temperate areas. Total emissions from the drainage were globally significant, totaling nearly one billion tonnes CO2eq annually. Of this, the CO2 component, about 780 million tonnes, represented more than one-fourth of total net CO2 emissions from agriculture, forestry, and land use. The bulk of these emissions came from a few tropical countries in Southeast Asia, and was linked to land clearing and drainage for crop cultivation. Geospatial data relative to this work were disseminated via the FAO geospatial server GeoNetwork, while the national aggregated statistics were disseminated via the FAOSTAT database. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
Open AccessArticle Phytoremediation Opportunities with Alimurgic Species in Metal-Contaminated Environments
Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 357; doi:10.3390/su8040357
Received: 8 January 2016 / Revised: 31 March 2016 / Accepted: 5 April 2016 / Published: 12 April 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1609 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Alimurgic species are edible wild plants growing spontaneously as invasive weeds in natural grassland and farmed fields. Growing interest in biodiversity conservation projects suggests deeper study of the multifunctional roles they can play in metal uptake for phytoremediation and their food safety when
[...] Read more.
Alimurgic species are edible wild plants growing spontaneously as invasive weeds in natural grassland and farmed fields. Growing interest in biodiversity conservation projects suggests deeper study of the multifunctional roles they can play in metal uptake for phytoremediation and their food safety when cultivated in polluted land. In this study, the responses of the tap-rooted perennial species Cichorium intybus L., Sonchus oleracerus L., Taraxacum officinale Web., Tragopogon porrifolius L. and Rumex acetosa L. were studied in artificially-highly Cd-Co-Cu-Pb-Zn-contaminated soil in a pot-scale trial, and those of T. officinale and R. acetosa in critical open environments (i.e., landfill, ditch sediments, and sides of highly-trafficked roads). Germination was not inhibited, and all species showed appreciable growth, despite considerable increases in tissue metal rates. Substantial growth impairments were observed in C. intybus, T. officinale and T. porrifolius; R. acetosa and S. oleracerus were only marginally affected. Zn was generally well translocated and reached a high leaf concentration, especially in T. officinale (~600 mg·kg−1·dry weight, DW), a result which can be exploited for phytoremediation purposes. The elevated Cd translocation also suggested applications to phytoextraction, particularly with C. intybus, in which leaf Cd reached ~16 mg·kg−1·DW. The generally high root retention of Pb and Cu may allow their phytostabilisation in the medium-term in no-tillage systems, together with significant reductions in metal leaching compared with bare soil. In open systems, critical soil Pb and Zn were associated with heavily trafficked roadsides, although this was only seldom reflected in shoot metal accumulation. It is concluded that a community of alimurgic species can serve to establish an efficient, long-lasting vegetation cover applied for phytoremediation and reduction of soil metal movements in degraded environments. However, their food use is not recommended, since leaf Cd and Pb may exceed EU safety thresholds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
Open AccessArticle Does Land Tenure Security Promote Manure Use by Farm Households in Vietnam?
Sustainability 2016, 8(2), 178; doi:10.3390/su8020178
Received: 6 November 2015 / Revised: 2 February 2016 / Accepted: 16 February 2016 / Published: 18 February 2016
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (1614 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Facing widespread poverty and land degradation, Vietnam started a land reform in 1993 as part of its renovation policy package known as “Doi Moi”. This paper examines the impacts of improved land tenure security, via this land reform, on manure use
[...] Read more.
Facing widespread poverty and land degradation, Vietnam started a land reform in 1993 as part of its renovation policy package known as “Doi Moi”. This paper examines the impacts of improved land tenure security, via this land reform, on manure use by farm households. As manure potentially improves soil fertility by adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil surface, it might contribute to improving soil productive capacity and reversing land degradation. Random effect regression models are applied to a panel dataset of 133 farm households in the Northern Uplands of Vietnam collected in 1993, 1998, and 2006. The results confirm that land tenure security has positive effects on manure use, but the levels of influence differ depending on whether the land has been privatized or whether the land title has already been issued. In addition, manure use is also influenced by the number of cattle and pigs, the education level and ethnicity of household heads, farm land size and non-farm income. The findings suggest that speeding up land privatization and titling, encouraging cattle and pig rearing, and improving education would promote manure use in farm production. However, careful interpretation of our research findings is required as land privatization, together with economic growth and population pressure, might lead to overuse of farm inputs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
Open AccessArticle AMF Inoculation Enhances Growth and Improves the Nutrient Uptake Rates of Transplanted, Salt-Stressed Tomato Seedlings
Sustainability 2015, 7(12), 15967-15981; doi:10.3390/su71215799
Received: 24 August 2015 / Revised: 23 October 2015 / Accepted: 25 November 2015 / Published: 2 December 2015
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (671 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
The study aimed to investigate the effects of commercially available AMF inoculate (Glomus sp. mixture) on the growth and the nutrient acquisition in tomato (Solanumlycopersicum L.) plants directly after transplanting and under different levels of salinity. Inoculated (AMF+) and non-inoculated (AMF−)
[...] Read more.
The study aimed to investigate the effects of commercially available AMF inoculate (Glomus sp. mixture) on the growth and the nutrient acquisition in tomato (Solanumlycopersicum L.) plants directly after transplanting and under different levels of salinity. Inoculated (AMF+) and non-inoculated (AMF−) tomato plants were subjected to three levels of NaCl salinity (0, 50, and 100 mM·NaCl). Seven days after transplanting, plants were analyzed for dry matter and RGR of whole plants and root systems. Leaf tissue was analyzed for mineral concentration before and after transplanting; leaf nutrient content and relative uptake rates (RUR) were calculated. AMF inoculation did not affect plant dry matter or RGR under fresh water-irrigation. The growth rate of AMF−plants did significantly decline under both moderate (77%) and severe (61%) salt stress compared to the fresh water-irrigated controls, while the decline was much less (88% and 75%,respectively)and statistically non-significant in salt-stressed AMF+ plants. Interestingly, root system dry matter of AMF+ plants (0.098 g plant–1) remained significantly greater under severe soil salinity compared to non-inoculated seedlings (0.082 g plant–1). The relative uptake rates of N, P, Mg, Ca, Mn, and Fe were enhanced in inoculated tomato seedlings and remained higher under (moderate) salt stress compared to AMF− plants This study suggests that inoculation with commercial AMF during nursery establishment contributes to alleviation of salt stress by maintaining a favorable nutrient profile. Therefore, nursery inoculation seems to be a viable solution to attenuate the effects of increasing soil salinity levels, especially in greenhouses with low natural abundance of AMF spores. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
Open AccessArticle Features Analysis of Dry Stone Walls of Tuscany (Italy)
Sustainability 2015, 7(10), 13887-13903; doi:10.3390/su71013887
Received: 7 August 2015 / Revised: 18 September 2015 / Accepted: 8 October 2015 / Published: 15 October 2015
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (4585 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Terraced systems currently represent an indubitable added value for Tuscany, as well as for other Italian regions and for several Mediterranean countries. This value goes beyond their original function of hosting new areas for cultivation. The hydrological functions performed by these systems, including
[...] Read more.
Terraced systems currently represent an indubitable added value for Tuscany, as well as for other Italian regions and for several Mediterranean countries. This value goes beyond their original function of hosting new areas for cultivation. The hydrological functions performed by these systems, including control of erosion, stabilisation of the slopes, prolongation of runoff times and the possible reduction of the volumes of surface runoff, are well-known. In addition, they also play a strategic role in the conservation of biodiversity and in maintaining local identity. At a national level, the terraced agricultural systems fall within the scope of actions scheduled in the National Strategic Plan for Rural Development 2007–2013, and the standards of Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs) envisages that they be maintained through the granting of economic aid as laid down in the Rural Development Plans 2007–2013 and 2014–2020. Eighteen sample areas, previously selected on the basis of the terracing intensity index (defined as the ratio between the lines representing the walls and the surface of 1 ha), were subjected for on-site surveys to determine the geo-typological features through the identification and measurement of the main technical-construction parameters of the dry stone walls. This analysis also enabled assessments of the overall state of conservation of the dry stone walls in order to suggest operations for safeguarding and protection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
Open AccessArticle Development of a Framework for the Evaluation of the Environmental Benefits of Controlled Traffic Farming
Sustainability 2015, 7(7), 8684-8708; doi:10.3390/su7078684
Received: 21 May 2015 / Revised: 26 June 2015 / Accepted: 29 June 2015 / Published: 3 July 2015
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (289 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Although controlled traffic farming (CTF) is an environmentally friendly soil management system, no quantitative evaluation of environmental benefits is available. This paper aims at establishing a framework for quantitative evaluation of the environmental benefits of CTF, considering a list of environmental benefits, namely,
[...] Read more.
Although controlled traffic farming (CTF) is an environmentally friendly soil management system, no quantitative evaluation of environmental benefits is available. This paper aims at establishing a framework for quantitative evaluation of the environmental benefits of CTF, considering a list of environmental benefits, namely, reducing soil compaction, runoff/erosion, energy requirement and greenhouse gas emission (GHG), conserving organic matter, enhancing soil biodiversity and fertiliser use efficiency. Based on a comprehensive literature review and the European Commission Soil Framework Directive, the choice of and the weighting of the impact of each of the environmental benefits were made. The framework was validated using data from three selected farms. For Colworth farm (Unilever, UK), the framework predicted the largest overall environmental benefit of 59.3% of the theoretically maximum achievable benefits (100%), as compared to the other two farms in Scotland (52%) and Australia (47.3%). This overall benefit could be broken down into: reducing soil compaction (24%), tillage energy requirement (10%) and GHG emissions (3%), enhancing soil biodiversity (7%) and erosion control (6%), conserving organic matter (6%), and improving fertiliser use efficiency (3%). Similar evaluation can be performed for any farm worldwide, providing that data on soil properties, topography, machinery, and weather are available. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)

Review

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Open AccessReview What Agriculture Can Learn from Native Ecosystems in Building Soil Organic Matter: A Review
Sustainability 2017, 9(4), 578; doi:10.3390/su9040578
Received: 30 December 2016 / Revised: 28 March 2017 / Accepted: 7 April 2017 / Published: 11 April 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1516 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Over the last century, researchers and practitioners with diverse backgrounds have articulated the importance of improving soil organic matter (SOM) contents in agricultural soils. More recently, climate change scientists interested in CO2 sinks, and agroecologists interested in ecological intensification have converged on
[...] Read more.
Over the last century, researchers and practitioners with diverse backgrounds have articulated the importance of improving soil organic matter (SOM) contents in agricultural soils. More recently, climate change scientists interested in CO2 sinks, and agroecologists interested in ecological intensification have converged on the goal of building SOM stocks in croplands. The challenge is that agriculture itself is responsible for dramatic losses of SOM. When grassland or forest ecosystems are first converted to agriculture, multiple mechanisms result in SOM declines of between 20% and 70%. Two of the most important mechanisms are the reduction in organic matter inputs from roots following the replacement of perennial vegetation with annual crop species, and increases in microbial respiration when tillage breaks open soil aggregates exposing previously protected organic matter. Many agricultural practices such as conservation tillage and integration of cover crops have been shown to achieve some degree of SOM improvement, but in general adoption of these practices falls short of accumulating the SOM stocks maintained by grasslands, forests or other native ecosystems that agriculture replaced. Two of the overarching reasons why native terrestrial ecosystems have achieved greater soil organic matter levels than human agroecosystems are because they direct a greater percentage of productivity belowground in perennial roots, and they do not require frequent soil disturbance. A growing body of research including that presented in this review suggests that developing perennial grain agroecosystems may hold the greatest promise for agriculture to approach the SOM levels that accumulate in native ecosystems. We present calculations that estimate potential soil organic carbon accumulation rates in fields converted from annual to perennial grains of between 0.13 and 1.70 t ha−1 year−1. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
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Open AccessReview Large-Scale Agricultural Management and Soil Meso- and Macrofauna Conservation in the Argentine Pampas
Sustainability 2016, 8(7), 653; doi:10.3390/su8070653
Received: 26 April 2016 / Revised: 1 July 2016 / Accepted: 4 July 2016 / Published: 9 July 2016
PDF Full-text (1996 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Soil is the most basic resource for sustainable agricultural production; it promotes water quality, is a key component of the biogeochemical cycles and hosts a huge diversity of organisms. However, we are not paying enough attention to soil degradation produced by land use.
[...] Read more.
Soil is the most basic resource for sustainable agricultural production; it promotes water quality, is a key component of the biogeochemical cycles and hosts a huge diversity of organisms. However, we are not paying enough attention to soil degradation produced by land use. Modern agriculture has been successful in increasing yields but has also caused extensive environmental damage, particularly soil degradation. In the Argentine Pampas, agriculturization reached a peak with the generalized use of the no-till technological package: genetically modified soybeans tolerant to glyphosate, no-till, glyphosate, and inorganic fertilizers. This phenomenon has been widely spread in the country; the no-till package has been applied in large areas and has been used by tenants in a 60%–70% of cultivated lands. Thus, those who were involved in developing management practices may not be the same as those who will face degradation issues related to those practices. Indeed, most evidence reviewed in this paper suggests that the most widely distributed practices in the Pampas region are actually producing severe soil degradation. Biological degradation is particularly important because soil biota is involved in numerous soil processes on which soil functioning relies, affecting soil fertility and productivity. For example, soil meso- and macrofauna are especially important in nutrient cycling and in soil structure formation and maintenance, and they are key components of the network that links microbial process to the scale of fields and landscapes where ecosystem services are produced. However, the knowledge of the impact of different agricultural managements on soil meso- and macrofauna in Pampas agroecosystems is far from conclusive at this stage. The reason for this lack of definite conclusions is that this area has been given less attention than in other parts of the world; the response of soil fauna to agricultural practices is complex and taxa-dependent; and there is a wide variety of practices in the main types of agricultural systems, making generalizations difficult. A review of the existing studies on soil meso- and macrofauna in agroecosystems, revealed that (a) agricultural soils, regardless of farming system, are strongly modified in biological aspects compared to the same soils without human interventions; (b) there are no conclusive results about no-till benefits compared to reduced tillage or conventional tillage; (c) agricultural managements that are alternative to the traditional conventional systems are very poorly represented in research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
Open AccessReview Are Australian and United States Farmers Using Soil Information for Soil Health Management?
Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 304; doi:10.3390/su8040304
Received: 5 February 2016 / Revised: 18 March 2016 / Accepted: 21 March 2016 / Published: 30 March 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (3638 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Soil health is an essential requirement of a sustainable, functioning agroecosystem. Tracking soil health to determine sustainability at the local level largely falls to farmers, even though they often lack access to critical information. We examine farmers’ participation in gathering soil information at
[...] Read more.
Soil health is an essential requirement of a sustainable, functioning agroecosystem. Tracking soil health to determine sustainability at the local level largely falls to farmers, even though they often lack access to critical information. We examine farmers’ participation in gathering soil information at the farm and paddock scale over the last two decades in Australia and the United States, by reviewing national-level reporting of farmer use of soil testing and farm planning as well as qualitative research on farmer perspectives. The level of participation in soil testing and farm planning has remained stable in the last two decades, with only 25% and 30% of landholders, respectively, participating nationally, in either country. The review revealed national-level reporting has a number of limitations in understanding farmers’ use of soil information and, in particular, fails to indicate the frequency and intensity of soil testing as well as farmer motivation to test soil or what they did with the soil information. The main use of soil testing is often stated as “determining fertilizer requirements”, yet data show soil testing is used less commonly than is customary practice. In Australia and in the United States, customary practice is three and half times more likely for decisions on fertilizer application levels. The rhetoric is heavy on the use of soil testing as a decision tool, and that it guides best practices. However, given that only a quarter of farmers are soil testing, and doing so infrequently and in low densities, the level of information on soil health is poor. While farmers report consistent monitoring of soil conditions, few have consistent records of such. In contrast to the information on the poor state of soil health, there is strong farmer interest in procuring soil health benefits through changes in farm practices such as conservation tillage or cover crops, even if they are unable to demonstrate these soil health benefits through soil testing. Many farmers report the use of observation in lieu of laboratory testing. Finally, we point to the need for soil information to include observational indicators to best allow a blend of traditional extension strategies with digital technology to create communities of interest in soil management. This would transcend the boundaries between those with expertise and those with experience in soil health management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)
Open AccessReview Soil Degradation, Land Scarcity and Food Security: Reviewing a Complex Challenge
Sustainability 2016, 8(3), 281; doi:10.3390/su8030281
Received: 5 January 2016 / Revised: 10 March 2016 / Accepted: 11 March 2016 / Published: 18 March 2016
Cited by 10 | PDF Full-text (4141 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Soil health, along with water supply, is the most valuable resource for humans, as human life depends on the soil’s generosity. Soil degradation, therefore, poses a threat to food security, as it reduces yield, forces farmers to use more inputs, and may eventually
[...] Read more.
Soil health, along with water supply, is the most valuable resource for humans, as human life depends on the soil’s generosity. Soil degradation, therefore, poses a threat to food security, as it reduces yield, forces farmers to use more inputs, and may eventually lead to soil abandonment. Unfortunately, the importance of preserving soil health appears to be overlooked by policy makers. In this paper, I first briefly introduce the present situation concerning agricultural production, natural resources, soil degradation, land use and the challenge ahead, to show how these issues are strictly interwoven. Then, I define soil degradation and present a review of its typologies and estimates at a global level. I discuss the importance of preserving soil capital, and its relationship to human civilization and food security. Trends concerning the availability of arable agricultural land, different scenarios, and their limitations, are analyzed and discussed. The possible relation between an increase in a country’s GNP, population and future availability of arable land is also analyzed, using the World Bank’s database. I argue that because of the many sources of uncertainty in the data, and the high risks at stake, a precautionary approach should be adopted when drawing scenarios. The paper ends with a discussion on the key role of preserving soil organic matter, and the need to adopt more sustainable agricultural practices. I also argue that both our relation with nature and natural resources and our lifestyle need to be reconsidered. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)

Other

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Open AccessCase Report Carbon Footprint Analysis for Mechanization of Maize Production Based on Life Cycle Assessment: A Case Study in Jilin Province, China
Sustainability 2015, 7(11), 15772-15784; doi:10.3390/su71115772
Received: 1 August 2015 / Revised: 18 November 2015 / Accepted: 19 November 2015 / Published: 24 November 2015
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (991 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The theory on the carbon footprint of agriculture can systematically evaluate the carbon emissions caused by artificial factors from the agricultural production process, which is the theoretical basis for constructing low-carbon agriculture and has important guiding significance for realizing low-carbon agriculture. Based on
[...] Read more.
The theory on the carbon footprint of agriculture can systematically evaluate the carbon emissions caused by artificial factors from the agricultural production process, which is the theoretical basis for constructing low-carbon agriculture and has important guiding significance for realizing low-carbon agriculture. Based on farm production survey data from Jilin Province in 2014, this paper aims to obtain a clear understanding of the carbon footprint of maize production through the following method: (1) one ton of maize production was evaluated systematically by using the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); (2) the carbon emissions of the whole system were estimated based on field measurement data, (3) using the emission factors we estimated Jilin’s carbon footprint for the period 2006–2013, and forecasted it for the period from 2014 to 2020 using the grey system model GM (1, 1). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues on Soil Management and Conservation)

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