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Soil Quality Impacts of Current South American Agricultural Practices

Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA), Estación Experimental Agropecuaria Paraná, Ruta 11, km 12,5. Oro Verde, Entre Ríos 3101, Argentina
Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Centro de Ciências Rurais, Av. Roraima 1000, Santa Maria, RS 97105-900, Brazil
Universidad de la República, Facultad de Agronomía, Garzón 780, Montevideo 12900, Uruguay
Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, Unidad Integrada Balcarce. Ruta Nac. 226 Km 73,5. Balcarce, Buenos Aires 7620, Argentina
IPNI Latinoamérica-Cono Sur. Av. Santa Fe 910, Acassuso, Buenos Aires B1641ABO, Argentina
USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment (NLAE), 2110 University Boulevard, Ames, IA 50011-3120, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Sustainability 2015, 7(2), 2213-2242;
Received: 19 November 2014 / Revised: 17 January 2015 / Accepted: 10 February 2015 / Published: 17 February 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Enhancing Soil Health to Mitigate Soil Degradation)
PDF [1043 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


Increasing global demand for oil seeds and cereals during the past 50 years has caused an expansion in the cultivated areas and resulted in major soil management and crop production changes throughout Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and southern Brazil. Unprecedented adoption of no-tillage as well as improved soil fertility and plant genetics have increased yields, but the use of purchased inputs, monocropping i.e., continuous soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.), and marginal land cultivation have also increased. These changes have significantly altered the global food and feed supply role of these countries, but they have also resulted in various levels of soil degradation through wind and water erosion, soil compaction, soil organic matter (SOM) depletion, and nutrient losses. Sustainability is dependent upon local interactions between soil, climate, landscape characteristics, and production systems. This review examines the region’s current soil and crop conditions and summarizes several research studies designed to reduce or prevent soil degradation. Although the region has both environmental and soil resources that can sustain current agricultural production levels, increasing population, greater urbanization, and more available income will continue to increase the pressure on South American croplands. A better understanding of regional soil differences and quantifying potential consequences of current production practices on various soil resources is needed to ensure that scientific, educational, and regulatory programs result in land management recommendations that support intensification of agriculture without additional soil degradation or other unintended environmental consequences. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil degradation; erosion; soil organic matter; no-till; agricultural intensification soil degradation; erosion; soil organic matter; no-till; agricultural intensification

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Wingeyer, A.B.; Amado, T.J.C.; Pérez-Bidegain, M.; Studdert, G.A.; Varela, C.H.P.; Garcia, F.O.; Karlen, D.L. Soil Quality Impacts of Current South American Agricultural Practices. Sustainability 2015, 7, 2213-2242.

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