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Soil Quality and Innovation in Agriculture: Dynamics, Indicators, and Sustainability

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Soil Conservation and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 27 October 2024 | Viewed by 3403

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Institute of Industrial and Forage Crops, Hellenic Agricultural Organization “Demeter”, 41335 Larisa, Greece
Interests: soil quality; soil health management; soil quality monitoring; soil organic carbon pools; re-use of agricultural and municipal wastes on soils; Use of innovative technologies in agriculture/precision agriculture
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Life on Earth depends on healthy soils. Soil is the living skin of our planet that is essential for the provision of food, clean water, good air, safe climate, and biodiverse landscapes. Globally, soils store about 80% of the carbon in terrestrial ecosystems, making them the largest terrestrial carbon sink. However, soils are fragile, and the impact of our actions on soils are often overlooked or ignored. To ensure a healthy and green future for our current and future generations, we need to protect and take care of soils.

Soil quality has emerged as the central concept for examining and integrating relationships and functions among various biological, chemical, and physical parameters of soils, which are important in the context of sustainable land use and management. 

Soil quality degradation has been one of the major challenges affecting the agriculture sector, and soil management could serve as an essential tool for improving soil quality in agricultural lands. Assessing soil quality involves the measurement of physical, chemical, and biological soil properties that act as soil quality indicators and using them to identify soil properties that may inhibit soil function or to monitor soil management practices’ effects on soil quality.  Nowadays, innovations in agriculture could provide new tools for the sustainable soil management that could enhance the soil quality of our lands.

This issue focuses on the advances of soil quality research, including the methods of soil quality monitoring, potential indicators and their dynamics, which could be used for the soil quality assessment, and the effect of innovation in agriculture on soil quality dynamics.     

In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. Research areas may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Soil quality indicators and their dynamics;
  • Methods of soil quality monitoring;
  • Management and restoration of soil quality in different soil environments;
  • Evaluation of the impact of soil quality degradation on agricultural production;
  • Innovations in agriculture affecting soil quality and sustainability.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Eleftherios Evangelou
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 submissions that pass pre-check are 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 semimonthly 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 2400 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 quality indicators
  • sustainable soil management
  • soil quality monitoring
  • innovation in agriculture
  • soil functions

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

13 pages, 1604 KiB  
Article
The Influence of Rural Urbanization on the Change in Soil Organic Matter of Farmland in Northeast China
by Xiaodong Wang, Long Fei, Yu An, Xiaohui Liu and Mei Zhang
Sustainability 2024, 16(11), 4683; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16114683 - 31 May 2024
Viewed by 383
Abstract
Studying the impact of urbanization on changes in the soil organic matter (SOM) content of farmland plays an important role in determining the influence mechanism of urbanization regarding regional environmental change. Taking the farmland in Yushu City, northeast China, as the research area, [...] Read more.
Studying the impact of urbanization on changes in the soil organic matter (SOM) content of farmland plays an important role in determining the influence mechanism of urbanization regarding regional environmental change. Taking the farmland in Yushu City, northeast China, as the research area, in May 2019, 68,393 sample plots (each plot: 60 m × 60 m) were set up in farmland and sampled to measure the SOM content of each plot while combining image data from the same period in the study area (resolution: 60 m). This investigation was based on 17 levels divided by the size of areas occupied by residences, using residential areas as the center and a radius of 60 m. Through a gradually buffered extrapolation method combined with mathematical functions, the influence of rural urbanization on the changes in SOM content was revealed. These results showed that the slope of the linear function between the SOM content and the residential area level was greater than zero and that with the continuous advancement of urbanization, the SOM content had an increasing trend. When urbanization advanced to the stage of larger cities, large-scale mechanized production led to land degradation. When urbanization advanced to the stage of towns, intensive cultivation was beneficial for land restoration. The findings of this study provide a reference basis for future studies of the relationship between rural urbanization and agricultural mechanization around the world. Full article
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16 pages, 3016 KiB  
Article
Internal Force Mechanism of Pisha Sandstone as a Soil Amendment to Improve Sandy Soil Structural Stability in Mu Us Sandy Land
by Zhe Liu, Lin Zhou, Yang Zhang, Jichang Han, Yingying Sun, Ruiqing Zhang, Xuxiang Li and Feinan Hu
Sustainability 2024, 16(11), 4415; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16114415 - 23 May 2024
Viewed by 523
Abstract
Compounding Pisha sandstone (PSS) with sandy soil in Mu Us Sandy Land is a viable agronomical measure to effectively reduce soil erosion and improve soil quality due to the complementary characters and structures of the two materials. Aggregate stability is an important indicator [...] Read more.
Compounding Pisha sandstone (PSS) with sandy soil in Mu Us Sandy Land is a viable agronomical measure to effectively reduce soil erosion and improve soil quality due to the complementary characters and structures of the two materials. Aggregate stability is an important indicator to assess sandy soil erosion resistance and quality, which could be largely affected by soil surface electrochemical properties and particle interaction forces. However, the effect of the compound ratio and particle interaction forces on the aggregate stability of compound soils with Pisha sandstone and sandy soil is still unclear. Therefore, in this study, the electrochemical properties, particle interaction forces, and their effects on the aggregate stability of PSS and sandy soil at five volume ratios (0:1, 1:5, 1:2, 1:1, and 1:0) were determined to clarify the internal force mechanism of PSS to increase sandy soil structural stability in a 10-year field experiment. Experiments were measured by a combined method for the determination of surface properties and aggregate water stability. A ten-year field study revealed that the incorporation of Pisha sandstone significantly enhanced the soil organic carbon (SOC) and cation exchange capacity (CEC) (p < 0.05), while the CEC value notably increased from 4.68 to 13.76 cmol·kg−1 (p < 0.05). The soil surface potential (absolute value) and the electric field intensity gradually decreased with the increase in the Pisha sandstone content. For the compound soil particle interaction force, the addition of Pisha sandstone enhanced the van der Waals attraction force, reduced the net repulsive force between compound soil particles, and promoted the agglomeration of aeolian sandy soil. The overall trend of the aggregate breaking strength of compound soils under different addition ratios of PSS was 1:0 > 1:1 > 0:1 > 1:5 > 1:2. When the Pisha sandstone content in the compound soils was <50%, the aggregate stability was mainly influenced by compound soil particle interaction forces, and the interaction force increase was the key reason for the aggregate breakdown. When the Pisha sandstone content in the compound soils was ≥50%, the aggregate stability was affected by the combined effects of the compound soil particle composition and particle interaction forces. These results indicate that PSS addition ratios and particle interaction force are important factors affecting the structural stability of compound soils, in which the volume ratio of PSS to sandy soil of 1:2 is the appropriate ratio. Our study provides some theoretical references for further understanding of the compound soil structure improvement and sandy soil erosion control in Mu Us Sandy Land. Full article
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17 pages, 2607 KiB  
Article
Assessing Environmental Sustainability of Phytoremediation to Remove Copper from Contaminated Soils
by Juan J. Espada, Rosalía Rodríguez, Andrea Delgado, Gemma Vicente and Luis Fernando Bautista
Sustainability 2024, 16(6), 2441; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16062441 - 15 Mar 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1584
Abstract
Phytoremediation stands out as a promising technology for removing heavy metals from contaminated soils. This work focuses on studying the environmental performance of phytoremediation in removing copper from contaminated soil located in an old Spanish mine using the life cycle assessment (LCA) method. [...] Read more.
Phytoremediation stands out as a promising technology for removing heavy metals from contaminated soils. This work focuses on studying the environmental performance of phytoremediation in removing copper from contaminated soil located in an old Spanish mine using the life cycle assessment (LCA) method. For this purpose, Brassica juncea (brown mustard), Medicago sativa (alfalfa) and their rotary cultivation were assessed along with different options for managing biomass (landfill disposal and biomass cogeneration). In addition, soil excavation and soil washing treatments were also compared to phytoremediation. M. sativa proved superior to B. juncea and their rotary cultivation, regardless of the biomass disposal option, achieving impact reductions of 30–100%. This is due to the ability of M. sativa to fix nitrogen, which reduces fertiliser requirements. Among the biomass management alternatives, cogeneration was superior to landfill disposal in all cases by allowing for energy recovery, thereby reducing environmental impacts by 60–100%. M. sativa + cogeneration is the option that presents the best environmental performance of all the studied treatments, achieving reductions up to negligible values in four of eight impact categories due to the impacts avoided by energy production. On the contrary, soil excavation is the less desirable option, followed by soil washing treatment. Full article
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