Special Issue "Sustainable Soil Health Management"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Zakaria Solaiman
Website
Guest Editor
UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA 6009, Australia
Interests: biochar; compost; soil health; mycorrhizal symbiosis; soil contaminants; medicinal plants; agronomy
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the opening of a new Special Issue focused on sustainable soil health management for quality crop production and environmental sustainability. Sustainable soil health management includes the application of inorganic and organic soil amendments, biostimulants, microbial inoculants, and environment-friendly agricultural practices. Besides covering these sustainable management practices, other areas that will be covered include the use of new crops such as medicinal plants, soil contaminants management, soil water management for dried environments, management of biodiversity, and economic assessment. Papers will be selected for this Special Issue subject to a rigorous peer-review procedure with the aim of the rapid and wide dissemination of research results, developments, and applications.

Therefore, this Special Issue will publish papers highlighting the significance of agricultural practices, including inputs for sustainable management of soil health, crop productivity, and conservation of the environment. This Special Issue invites papers from researchers and academics of any discipline of agriculture and environment that focus on soil health management for sustainable crop production and environment.

Dr. Zakaria Solaiman
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 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 1800 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

  • Biostimulants
  • Fertilizer inputs
  • Microbial inoculants
  • Soil contaminants
  • Organic amendments

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Anthropogenic and Inherent Effects on Soil Organic Carbon across the U.S
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5695; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145695 (registering DOI) - 15 Jul 2020
Abstract
Soil organic carbon (SOC) influences several soil functions, making it one of the most important soil health indicators. Its quantity is determined by anthropogenic and inherent factors that must be understood to improve SOC management and interpretation. Topsoil (≤15 cm) SOC response to [...] Read more.
Soil organic carbon (SOC) influences several soil functions, making it one of the most important soil health indicators. Its quantity is determined by anthropogenic and inherent factors that must be understood to improve SOC management and interpretation. Topsoil (≤15 cm) SOC response to tillage depth and intensity, cover crops, stover removal, manure addition, and various cropping systems was assessed using 7610 observations from eight U.S. regions. Overall, including cover crops, reducing tillage depth and intensity increased SOC. The positive effects of cover crops were more noticeable in South Central, Northwest, and Midwest regions. Removing high rates (>65%) of crop residue decreased SOC in Midwestern and Southeastern soils. Depending on region, applying manure increased SOC by 21 to 41%, compared to non-manured soils. Diversified cropping systems (e.g., those utilizing small mixed vegetables, perennials, or dairy-based systems) had the highest topsoil SOC content, while more intensive annual row crops and large-scale single vegetable production systems, had the lowest. Among inherent factors, SOC increased as precipitation increased, but decreased as mean annual temperature increased. Texture influenced SOC, showing higher values in fine-texture than coarse-texture soils. Finally, this assessment confirmed that SOC can be a sensitive soil health indicator for evaluating conservation practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Soil Health Management)
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Open AccessArticle
Effect of Nitrogen Fertilizer on Soil CO2 Emission Depends on Crop Rotation Strategy
Sustainability 2020, 12(13), 5271; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12135271 - 29 Jun 2020
Abstract
Developing environmentally friendly and sustainable nitrogen (N) fertilizer management strategies is crucial in mitigating carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from soil. How N fertilizer management practices influence soil CO2 emission rates under different crop rotations remains unclear. The aim of this [...] Read more.
Developing environmentally friendly and sustainable nitrogen (N) fertilizer management strategies is crucial in mitigating carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from soil. How N fertilizer management practices influence soil CO2 emission rates under different crop rotations remains unclear. The aim of this study was to assess the impact on soil CO2 emission and soil physicochemical properties of three N fertilizer treatments including traditional rate (TF), optimized rate (0.8TF), and no fertilizer (NF) under three different crop rotation treatments: wheat-fallow (WF), wheat-soybean (WS), and wheat-maize (WM) over two years in a field experiment in northwest China. The rates were 5.51, 5.60, and 5.97 μmol·m−2·s−1 of mean soil CO2 emission under the TF, 0.8TF, and NF treatments, respectively. Mean soil CO2 emission rates were 21.33 and 26.99% higher under the WM rotation compared with the WF and WS rotations, respectively. The WS rotation showed higher soil nutrient content and lower soil CO2 emissions, and reduced fertilizer application. Importantly, soil organic carbon (SOC) concentration in the topsoil can be maximized by including either a summer legume or a summer maize crop in winter wheat rotations, and by applying N fertilizer at the optimal rate. This may be particularly beneficial in the dryland cropping systems of northern China. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Soil Health Management)
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Open AccessArticle
Short-Term Effects of Eco-Friendly Fertilizers on a Soil Bacterial Community in the Topsoil and Rhizosphere of an Irrigated Agroecosystem
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 4803; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12124803 - 12 Jun 2020
Abstract
Fertilizer application to arable soils could be effective for soil nutrients. However, there are many negative effects in croplands with long-term chemical fertilizer application. Whether eco-friendly fertilizer addition could enhance soil quality and soil microbial activity has been investigated before; however, how top- [...] Read more.
Fertilizer application to arable soils could be effective for soil nutrients. However, there are many negative effects in croplands with long-term chemical fertilizer application. Whether eco-friendly fertilizer addition could enhance soil quality and soil microbial activity has been investigated before; however, how top- and rhizosphere soil bacterial communities respond to their short-term effects is not well known. Here, we used Illumina MiSeq sequencing to determine the changes of bacterial community structure in both topsoil and rhizoshpere after one month of the addition of three different eco-friendly fertilizers—biochar (B), microbial fertilizer (MF), fertilizer synergist (FS) and selected soil base fertilizer (CK) as a control, in an irrigated agroecosystem of cabbage crop (Brassica oleracea L. var. capitata L.). The results show that three different eco-friendly fertilizers significantly enhanced cabbage growth. The Shannon and Ace indexes of the bacterial community significantly decreased under the FS treatment in both soils, but the total abundance of bacteria was maximal under the FS treatment in the topsoil and the MF treatment in the rhizosphere. The addition of the three fertilizers led to significant differences in the relative abundance of bacteria community at the phylum level, such as Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Rokubacteria and Planctomycetes in the topsoil, and Chloroflexi, Actinobacteria, Firmicutes and Rokubacteria in the rhizosphere. The same phylum showed the inconsistent changes under different fertilizer treatments in both topsoil and rhizosphere. The dominant genera, i.e., Nitrosospira and Massilia in the topsoil, and Flavobacterium, Nitrosospira and Pseudomonas in the rhizosphere, were much higher under the FS treatment than others. Redundancy analysis showed that total nitrogen and available phosphorus were the key factors that shaped the bacterial community in this ecosystem. These results highlighted that the short-term addition of eco-friendly fertilizer had an improvement effect on the quality of both topsoil and rhizosphere in croplands with long-term chemical fertilizer application. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Soil Health Management)
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Open AccessArticle
Deforestation and Subsequent Cultivation of Nutrient Poor Soils of Miombo Woodlands of Tanzania: Long Term Effect on Maize Yield and Soil Nutrients
Sustainability 2020, 12(10), 4113; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12104113 - 18 May 2020
Abstract
The miombo woodlands of Tanzania have continued to be subjected to deforestation due to mainly agricultural expansion. Knowledge of long-term productivity of the subsequent land use can help to evaluate the sustainability of the existing land management systems. We used both socioeconomic and [...] Read more.
The miombo woodlands of Tanzania have continued to be subjected to deforestation due to mainly agricultural expansion. Knowledge of long-term productivity of the subsequent land use can help to evaluate the sustainability of the existing land management systems. We used both socioeconomic and soil survey data to assess maize yield and selected soil properties, respectively, with an increasing cultivation period since conversion from miombo woodland. Data on maize production was collected from 121 households in three villages, while soil sampling was undertaken on 15 plots in one of the study villages. Soil samples were taken from miombo woodland and from croplands with cultivation periods varying from two to 52 years. Samples were taken at 0–10 cm and 10–20 cm depths and analyzed for the major plant nutrients. According to the results of the socioeconomic data analysis, continued cultivation of former miombo woodlands does not have a significant effect on maize yield. The results of the soil analysis also showed that the major plant nutrients on farmlands in both soil layers did not show a significant change from the adjacent miombo woodland and did not decline with increasing cultivation period. This indicates that the current farming system can maintain the levels of the major plant nutrients and thus soil productivity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Soil Health Management)
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Open AccessArticle
Testing of Commercial Inoculants to Enhance P Uptake and Grain Yield of Promiscuous Soybean in Kenya
Sustainability 2020, 12(9), 3803; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12093803 - 07 May 2020
Abstract
The aim of this study was to assess the potential of commercial mycorrhizal inoculants and a rhizobial inoculant to improve soybean yield in Kenya. A promiscuous soybean variety was grown in a greenhouse pot study with two representative soils amended with either water-soluble [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to assess the potential of commercial mycorrhizal inoculants and a rhizobial inoculant to improve soybean yield in Kenya. A promiscuous soybean variety was grown in a greenhouse pot study with two representative soils amended with either water-soluble mineral P or rock P to assess product performance. The performance of selected mycorrhizal inoculants combined with a rhizobial inoculant (Legumefix) was then assessed with farmer groups in three agroecological zones using a small-plot, randomized complete block design to assess soybean root colonization by mycorrhiza, nodulation, and plant biomass production in comparison to rhizobial inoculant alone or with water-soluble mineral P. Greenhouse results showed highly significant root colonization by commercial mycorrhizal inoculant alone (p < 0.001) and in interaction with soil type (p < 0.0001) and P source (p < 0.0001). However, no significant effect was shown in plant P uptake, biomass production, or leaf chlorophyll index. In field conditions, the effects of mycorrhizal and rhizobial inoculants in combination or alone were highly context-specific and may induce either a significant increase or decrease in root mycorrhizal colonization and nodule formation. Mycorrhizal and rhizobial inoculants in combination or alone had limited effect on plant P uptake, biomass production, leaf chlorophyll index, and grain yield. Though some mycorrhizal inoculants induced significant root colonization by mycorrhizal inoculants, this did not lead to higher soybean yield, even in soils with limited P content. Our results are further evidence that inoculant type, soil type, and P source are critical factors to evaluate commercial inoculants on a context-specific basis. However, our results highlight the need for the identification of additional targeting criteria, as inoculant type, soil type, and P source alone were not enough to be predictive of the response. Without the identification of predictive criteria for improved targeting, the economic use of such inoculants will remain elusive. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Soil Health Management)
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Open AccessArticle
Soil Quality and Its Potential Indicators under Different Land Use Systems in the Shivaliks of Indian Punjab
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3490; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083490 - 24 Apr 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The present study assessed the overall state of the soil based on the most sensitive soil attributes under different land uses—i.e., rainfed agriculture, mixed forest, afforestation and non-arable lands—in the lower Shivaliks of Indian Punjab. The soil parameters—i.e., erosion ratio, bulk density and [...] Read more.
The present study assessed the overall state of the soil based on the most sensitive soil attributes under different land uses—i.e., rainfed agriculture, mixed forest, afforestation and non-arable lands—in the lower Shivaliks of Indian Punjab. The soil parameters—i.e., erosion ratio, bulk density and water retention characteristics—and fertility parameters were integrated under different land uses to identify potential soil quality indicators.The overall state of the soil, based on a weighted average of primary soil functions under different land uses through fuzzy modeling, was deemed best for agricultural land use (0.515), followed by forests (0.465) and non-arable lands (0.456), and deemed worst under afforestation (0.428). Among the different land use systems, principal component analysis (PCA) clearly separated the agriculture and forest samples from afforestation and non-arable lands samples. The contribution of potential indicators such as erosion ratio (ER), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) toward the soil quality index (SQI) was substantial. The order of contribution of the selected indicators to the SQI was 53.5%, 34.3% and 19.9% for ER, P and K, respectively. These indicators are most influential for studying real time soil health and ecological processes in the future, under various land use systems in degraded agroecosystems like the Shivaliks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Soil Health Management)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Soil Health and Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 4859; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12124859 - 15 Jun 2020
Abstract
A healthy soil acts as a dynamic living system that delivers multiple ecosystem services, such as sustaining water quality and plant productivity, controlling soil nutrient recycling decomposition, and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Soil health is closely associated with sustainable agriculture, because [...] Read more.
A healthy soil acts as a dynamic living system that delivers multiple ecosystem services, such as sustaining water quality and plant productivity, controlling soil nutrient recycling decomposition, and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Soil health is closely associated with sustainable agriculture, because soil microorganism diversity and activity are the main components of soil health. Agricultural sustainability is defined as the ability of a crop production system to continuously produce food without environmental degradation. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), cyanobacteria, and beneficial nematodes enhance water use efficiency and nutrient availability to plants, phytohormones production, soil nutrient cycling, and plant resistance to environmental stresses. Farming practices have shown that organic farming and tillage improve soil health by increasing the abundance, diversity, and activity of microorganisms. Conservation tillage can potentially increase grower’s profitability by reducing inputs and labor costs as compared to conventional tillage while organic farming might add extra management costs due to high labor demands for weeding and pest control, and for fertilizer inputs (particularly N-based), which typically have less consistent uniformity and stability than synthetic fertilizers. This review will discuss the external factors controlling the abundance of rhizosphere microbiota and the impact of crop management practices on soil health and their role in sustainable crop production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Soil Health Management)
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