Special Issue "Soil Fertility"

A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Rosa Francaviglia
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Council for Agricultural Research and Economics, Research Centre for Agriculture and Environment (CREA-AA), 00184 Rome, Italy
Interests: effect of climate change on agriculture; carbon sink and agricultural soils; cropping systems and simulation models; conservation agriculture; soil quality indicators; agro-environmental evaluations
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Soil fertility is the capacity to support plant growth. It is the component of overall soil productivity that deals with its available nutrient status, and its ability to provide nutrients out of its own reserves and through external applications for crop production.

There are three main components of soil fertility: Physical, chemical and biological. The level of soil fertility results from the inherent characteristics of the soil and the interactions that occur between these three components during crop management.

This Special Issue on “Soil Fertility” will welcome contributions (original research and reviews) addressing the best options to improve crop and soil management while limiting the environmental problems caused by agricultural activity and maintaining ecosystem services.

Articles may include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Conservation tillage
  • Crop rotation and use of legumes
  • Soil cover (cover crops, mulch)
  • Crop residues
  • Organic fertilizers (including manure and compost)
  • Fertilizer application
Dr. Rosa Francaviglia
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • soil physics
  • soil chemistry
  • soil biology
  • soil microbiology
  • fertilizers and amendments
  • soil tillage
  • cover crops
  • crop rotations
  • soil organic carbon
  • organic farming

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Farmers’ Attitudes toward On-Farm Adoption of Soil Organic Matter in Piedmont Region, Italy
Agriculture 2020, 10(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10010014 - 09 Jan 2020
Abstract
This study aimed at exploring the frequency of use and perceived benefits of application of organic matter to the soil in a group of Italian farmers, investigating also the preferred sources of information, to identify potential interventions to promote the improvement of the [...] Read more.
This study aimed at exploring the frequency of use and perceived benefits of application of organic matter to the soil in a group of Italian farmers, investigating also the preferred sources of information, to identify potential interventions to promote the improvement of the soil organic matter. The study has been carried out administering a 21-item paper-and-pencil questionnaire to 44 farmers. The results of the study highlighted that the main perceived benefit linked to soil organic matter application is related to its capacity of increasing productivity, while the aspects related to work pace, production costs, and implications with the climate change appeared to be less relevant. According to the results of the study, web targeted information campaigns for the smaller farms operators and training activities for the bigger farms operators are the most effective solutions to make farmers aware of the importance of increasing soil organic matter content. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Fertility)
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Open AccessArticle
Diversified Arable Cropping Systems and Management Schemes in Selected European Regions Have Positive Effects on Soil Organic Carbon Content
Agriculture 2019, 9(12), 261; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9120261 - 12 Dec 2019
Abstract
In the last few decades, various crop diversification strategies and management practices have been promoted to improve or at least maintain environmental quality and agroecosystem services. We conducted a data-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of alternatives for crop diversification and environmentally friendly farming [...] Read more.
In the last few decades, various crop diversification strategies and management practices have been promoted to improve or at least maintain environmental quality and agroecosystem services. We conducted a data-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of alternatives for crop diversification and environmentally friendly farming management for arable crops in four selected European pedoclimatic regions and typical cropping systems in the Atlantic, Boreal, Mediterranean North, and Mediterranean South regions. The dataset was retrieved from 38 references and included data on site-specific environmental conditions, soil tillage, crop rotation, fertilization, and final soil organic carbon content (SOC). No tillage (NT) was more effective (7%) in increasing SOC content than minimum tillage (MT) across the studied depths (from 5 to 40 cm). Conservation tillage as whole, including NT, MT, and rotational tillage (RT) positively affected SOC content in the top 10 cm (28%) in comparison with conventional tillage (CT). Compared to monoculture, longer crop rotations (3–5 years) and the introduction of legumes resulted in higher increases in SOC contents (18%), that were higher in semiarid conditions (11%) than under humid and sub-humid climates (3.2%). The effect of fertilization on SOC contents was higher in the Mediterranean North region (28%), and organic fertilization showed the highest increases (25%) compared to the control with mineral fertilization. Higher increases in SOC contents with tillage and fertilization management were found in sites with lower SOC contents in the control treatment (conventional tillage and mineral fertilization respectively). The data analysis indicated that various European arable agroecosystems benefit both from diversified cropping systems and the adoption of environmentally friendly farming management and are thereby capable to increase SOC contents. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Fertility)
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Open AccessArticle
Impact of Nutritional Management on Available Mineral Nitrogen and Soil Quality Properties in Coffee Agroecosystems
Agriculture 2019, 9(12), 260; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9120260 - 12 Dec 2019
Abstract
Coffee crop management is guided by an approach of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers application in order to guarantee high production rates; however, this type of management increases soil degradation. A study was conducted in order to evaluate the impact of changing soil nutritional management [...] Read more.
Coffee crop management is guided by an approach of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers application in order to guarantee high production rates; however, this type of management increases soil degradation. A study was conducted in order to evaluate the impact of changing soil nutritional management from Chemical (NPK) to Organic (Farmyard Manure-FYM), and from Chemical (NPK) to Mixed (NPK + FYM) regarding soil quality properties and mineral nitrogen available in coffee agroecosystems; a multi-spatial analysis was carried out considering a unifactorial design; soil samples were taken from depths between 0.10 and 0.20 m in 42 plots; physical and chemical variables were measured (ammonium, nitrates, pH, organic matter, moisture, bulk density and texture). It was found that Chemical Management affects the physical and chemical properties of soil quality (organic matter, humidity, bulk density, and pH), resulting in significant differences (p < 0.05) comparing to Mixed and Organic Management. The lowest level of organic matter was found under chemical management, being of 3% and increasing up to 4.41% under mixed management. Mineral nitrogen availability in the form of ammonium, was not affected by nutritional management. A higher concentration of nitrate was found under Mixed Management (105.02 mg NO3 kg−1), presenting significant differences (p < 0.05) against Chemical and Organic. There was no significant difference between Organic and Chemical Management. The study allowed us to determine that, through coffee organic nutritional management, it is possible to keep suitable soil quality conditions in order to reduce soil degradation, and to keep mineral nitrogen available for the development of coffee plants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Fertility)
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Open AccessCommunication
Ecotone Dynamics and Stability from Soil Perspective: Forest-Agriculture Land Transition
Agriculture 2019, 9(10), 228; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9100228 - 21 Oct 2019
Abstract
Topographic and edaphic gradients usually arrange ecotonal boundaries. Although the interrelationships between vegetation and edaphic factors are relevant in most types of ecotones, they are not adequately documented. The clearly defined forest-agriculture land ecotone at the Proklest experimental site of the Training Forest [...] Read more.
Topographic and edaphic gradients usually arrange ecotonal boundaries. Although the interrelationships between vegetation and edaphic factors are relevant in most types of ecotones, they are not adequately documented. The clearly defined forest-agriculture land ecotone at the Proklest experimental site of the Training Forest Enterprise (T.F.E), Masaryk Forest Křtiny, Czech Republic presents an opportunity to investigate these inter-relationships. Our aim was to determine ecotone effects reflected by changes in soil reaction and other soil physical properties across this clearly defined forest-agriculture land ecotone. We selected eleven sampling spots: four in the forest zone, four in the agriculture land, and three in the ecotone zone between the forest and agriculture land. Every month from April to November, soil samples were collected at a depth of 5 cm. All the soil samples collected were examined for minimal air capacity, actual and potential soil reaction, and maximum capillary water capacity. The forest soil was slightly more acidic when compared to the agriculture soil, with the ecotone zone recording the lowest pH value. The maximum capillary water capacity was higher in the forest region than in the agriculture land with a sharp decline in the ecotone zone where the lowest value was recorded. The minimum air capacity was much higher in the forest region than in the agriculture land. There was a marked decline in the ecotone region where the lowest value was observed. Our results highlight the importance of soil as a factor affecting the distribution of plant communities along ecotones. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Fertility)
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Open AccessArticle
Effects of Biostimulant and Organic Amendment on Soil Properties and Nutrient Status of Lactuca Sativa in a Calcareous Saline-Sodic Soil
Agriculture 2019, 9(8), 164; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9080164 - 26 Jul 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Many studies have reported the advantages of alternative agricultural practices using more environmentally-friendly products to ameliorate the negative impacts of salinity and sodicity, but few have examined the effects of these products in saline-sodic soils with high soil organic matter (SOM) content. The [...] Read more.
Many studies have reported the advantages of alternative agricultural practices using more environmentally-friendly products to ameliorate the negative impacts of salinity and sodicity, but few have examined the effects of these products in saline-sodic soils with high soil organic matter (SOM) content. The objective of this research was to examine the effect of biostimulant (Actiwave) and organic amendment (Corresal Plus) product on soil properties and on the nutrient content of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.). A pot study with a calcareous saline-sodic soil was conducted using a completely randomized design with six treatments: Two rates of the biostimulant (ActA: 10 l ha−1 and ActB: 15 l ha−1), three rates of the amendment (CorA: 10 l ha−1, CorB: 15 l ha−1 and CorC: 50 l ha−1) and a control treatment. The application of Actiwave reduced soil electrical conductivity (E.C.), soil exchangeable Na and soluble Cl. It also increased leaf N and Zn content. On the other hand, the higher dose of Corresal Plus reduced soil pH and soil exchangeable Na and increased soil NO3-N. Additionally, CorC treatment decreased leaf Cl and increased leaf N content enhancing lettuce growth.. However, in most cases, the two products did not provoke significant changes indicating that their positive effects were probably masked by the high SOM content and the calcareous nature of the studied soil. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Fertility)
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Open AccessArticle
Highly Porous and Nutrients-Rich Biochar Derived from Dairy Cattle Manure and Its Potential for Removal of Cationic Compound from Water
Agriculture 2019, 9(6), 114; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9060114 - 02 Jun 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
The use of biochar in the horticulture and crop fields is a recent method to improve soil fertility due to its porous features and rich nutrients. In the present study, dairy manure (DM) was used as a biomass precursor in the preparation of [...] Read more.
The use of biochar in the horticulture and crop fields is a recent method to improve soil fertility due to its porous features and rich nutrients. In the present study, dairy manure (DM) was used as a biomass precursor in the preparation of highly porous biochar (DM-BC) produced at specific conditions. Based on N2 adsorption-desorption isotherms and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observations, the resulting biochar featured its microporous/mesoporous textures with a BET surface area of about 300 m2/g and total pore volume of 0.185 cm3/g, which could be a low-cost biosorbent for the effective removal of methylene blue (MB) from the aqueous solution. As observed by the energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), the primary inorganic nutrients on the surface of DM-BC included calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), phosphorus (P), silicon (Si), sulfur (S), sodium (Na) and aluminum (Al). Furthermore, the resulting biochar was investigated in duplicate for its biosorption performance of cationic compound (i.e., methylene blue, MB) from the aqueous solution with various initial MB concentrations and DM-BC dosages at 25 °C. The findings showed that the biosorption kinetic parameters fitted by the pseudo-second order rate model with high correlations were consistent with its porous features. These experimental results suggested that the porous DM-based biochar could be reused as a biosorbent, biofertilizer, or soil amendments due to the high porosity and the abundance in nutrient minerals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Fertility)
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Open AccessArticle
Technical Note: Regression Analysis of Proximal Hyperspectral Data to Predict Soil pH and Olsen P
Agriculture 2019, 9(3), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9030055 - 15 Mar 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This work examines two large data sets to demonstrate that hyperspectral proximal devices may be able to measure soil nutrient. One data set has 3189 soil samples from four hill country pastoral farms and the second data set has 883 soil samples taken [...] Read more.
This work examines two large data sets to demonstrate that hyperspectral proximal devices may be able to measure soil nutrient. One data set has 3189 soil samples from four hill country pastoral farms and the second data set has 883 soil samples taken from a stratified nested grid survey. These were regressed with spectra from a proximal hyperspectral device measured on the same samples. This aim was to obtain wavelengths, which may be proxy indicators for measurements of soil nutrients. Olsen P and pH were regressed with 2150 wave bands between 350 nm and 2500 nm to find wavebands, which were significant indicators. The 100 most significant wavebands for each proxy were used to regress both data sets. The regression equations from the smaller data set were used to predict the values of pH and Olsen P to validate the larger data set. The predictions from the equations from the smaller data set were as good as the regression analyses from the large data set when applied to it. This may mean that, in the future, hyperspectral analysis may be a proxy to soil chemical analysis; or increase the intensity of soil testing by finding markers of fertility cheaply in the field. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Fertility)
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Open AccessArticle
A Discussion on Mehlich-3 Phosphorus Extraction from the Perspective of Governing Chemical Reactions and Phases: Impact of Soil pH
Agriculture 2018, 8(7), 106; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8070106 - 02 Jul 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Mehlich-3 (M3) is one of the most common agronomic and environmental phosphorus (P) extractants for determining P fertilizer requirements and the potential for non-point source pollution. Understanding how soil properties impact M3 extractability can improve our ability to properly use this soil test. [...] Read more.
Mehlich-3 (M3) is one of the most common agronomic and environmental phosphorus (P) extractants for determining P fertilizer requirements and the potential for non-point source pollution. Understanding how soil properties impact M3 extractability can improve our ability to properly use this soil test. The objectives of this study were to investigate the impact of soil pH on P extractability by M3 and water in different soils containing equal total P, and to ascertain information about mechanisms of M3-P extraction. Soil pH at four field sites was previously adjusted to a range of approximately 4.5–7.5. Soils (Grant, Dale, Teller, Easpur) were characterized, and P was extracted with M3 and water. Extraction of Mehlich-3 P decreased 40% to 55% with increasing pH, which was potentially due to changing P forms, partial neutralization of extractant pH, and consumption of extractant fluoride (F) by non P-containing calcium (Ca) minerals. Water-soluble P (WSP) increased with increasing pH up to pH 6–7. Mehlich-3 P and WSP were not positively correlated except for one soil type. Mehlich-3 P is best utilized with WSP as indicators of quantity and intensity, respectively. Use of M3-P alone at pH < 5.5 may overestimate solubility. Further research should examine the suitability of M3-P at pH > 7. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Fertility)
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