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Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2017) | Viewed by 92856

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Centre for Environment Science and Climate Resilient Agriculture, NRL Building, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa, New Delhi-110 012, India
Interests: soil conservation; carbon sequestration; conservation agriculture; nitrogen management

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Guest Editor
Faculty of Science and Engineering, The University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton WV1 1LY, UK
Interests: soil erosion; soil conservation; desertification; desert reclamation; soil system dynamics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Global soil health is deteriorating due to the direct and indirect effects of climate change, increasing population and resource degradation. Conservation agriculture (CA) is increasingly promoted around the world as an alternative strategy to address soil degradation resulting from organic matter and nutrient content depletion, sustain crop productivity with lower production costs and reduce environmental footprints (Kassam et al. 2009). “Conservation agriculture” refers to a set of principles rooted in sound science. These principles include: (1) causing minimum disturbance to the soil surface through no- or minimum-tillage; (2) keeping the soil surface covered with crop residues, such as mulch and cover crops; and (3) adopting crop sequences/rotations in appropriate spatial and temporal scales. Adoption of CA has the potential to increase soil organic carbon stocks through sequestration of atmospheric carbon, thus helping to curb global warming.

Experiences from several locations have shown that adoption of conservation tillage effects soil health (mainly, C and N accumulation, soil aggregation, water retention, nutrient cycling, and soil enzymes), but CA is not simply conservation tillage (Reicoskky, 2015). To fully understand the impact of CA, which also uses fewer resources and can therefore be more carbon efficient, an in-depth, systematic review on soil processes, soil quality parameters, and dynamics of plant nutrients under diverse agro-ecosystems is needed. Thus, this Special Issue will assess the sustainability of CA technologies for maintaining or increasing crop productivity, improving soil health including plant available water supplies, and reducing potential negative environmental quality impacts (i.e., erosion, leaching and runoff) on arable land. Papers are invited on these aspects from all over the globe. The selected papers for this Special Issue were subject to a peer review procedure with the aim of rapid and wide dissemination of research results, developments, and applications.

Dr. Ranjan Bhattacharyya
Prof. Dr. Michael A. Fullen
Guest Editors

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.



References

Kassam, A.H.; Friedrich, T.; Shaxson, T.F.; Pretty, J.N. The spread of Conservation Agriculture: Justification, sustainability and uptake. Int. J. Agric. Sustain. 2009, 7, 292–320.

Reicoskky, D.C. Conservation tillage is not conservation agriculture. J. Soil Water Conserv. 2015, 70, 103A–108A, doi:10.2489/jswc.70.5.103A.

Keywords

  • soil organic matter dynamics
  • C and N sequestration
  • soil quality/health
  • nutrient cycling enzymes
  • soil conservation
  • soil hydraulic processes
  • soil thermal processes
  • root water uptake
  • soil aggregation and root traits
  • nutrient cycling mechanisms

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review

2666 KiB  
Article
Infiltration and Soil Loss Changes during the Growing Season under Ploughing and Conservation Tillage
by Gergely Jakab, Balázs Madarász, Judit Alexandra Szabó, Adrienn Tóth, Dóra Zacháry, Zoltán Szalai, Ádám Kertész and Jeremy Dyson
Sustainability 2017, 9(10), 1726; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9101726 - 26 Sep 2017
Cited by 31 | Viewed by 5749
Abstract
Decreased water retention and increased runoff and soil loss are of special importance concerning soil degradation of hilly crop fields. In this study, plots under ploughing (conventional) tillage (PT) and conservation tillage (CT; 15 years) were compared. Rainfall simulation on 6 m2 [...] Read more.
Decreased water retention and increased runoff and soil loss are of special importance concerning soil degradation of hilly crop fields. In this study, plots under ploughing (conventional) tillage (PT) and conservation tillage (CT; 15 years) were compared. Rainfall simulation on 6 m2 plots was applied to determine infiltration and soil loss during the growing season. Results were compared with those measured from 1200 m2 plots exposed to natural rainfalls in 2016. Infiltration was always higher under CT than PT, whereas the highest infiltration was measured under the cover crop condition. Infiltration under seedbed and stubble resulted in uncertainties, which suggests that natural pore formation can be more effective at improving soil drainage potential than can temporary improvements created by soil tillage operations. Soil erodibility was higher under PT for each soil status; however, the seedbed condition triggered the highest values. For CT, soil loss volume was only a function of runoff volume at both scales. Contrarily, on PT plots, some extreme precipitation events triggered extremely high soil loss owing to linear erosion, which meant no direct connection existed between the scales. Improved soil conditions due to conservation practice are more important for decreasing soil loss than the better surface conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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1379 KiB  
Article
Amino Acid: Its Dual Role as Nutrient and Scavenger of Free Radicals in Soil
by Rahul Datta, Divyashri Baraniya, Yong-Feng Wang, Aditi Kelkar, Ram Swaroop Meena, Gulab Singh Yadav, Maria Teresa Ceccherini and Pavel Formanek
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1402; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9081402 - 9 Aug 2017
Cited by 43 | Viewed by 6153
Abstract
Ascorbic acid is a bacteriostatic agent; one of the many ways by which ascorbic acid hampers bacterial growth is by the production of hydrogen peroxide, which further converts into hydroxyl free radicals. Certain amino acids can counteract the inhibitory effect of hydroxyl free [...] Read more.
Ascorbic acid is a bacteriostatic agent; one of the many ways by which ascorbic acid hampers bacterial growth is by the production of hydrogen peroxide, which further converts into hydroxyl free radicals. Certain amino acids can counteract the inhibitory effect of hydroxyl free radicals by checking their oxidizing effect. Though ascorbic acid is bacteriostatic in nature, it facilitates prokaryotic respiration by decarboxylation. This study was carried out to understand how microbes from different horizons of the forest soil respond to the addition of a bacteriostatic agent (ascorbic acid) and growth promoting agent (amino acids), with respect to the soil respiration. We observed that the addition of either ascorbic acid or a combination of it with amino acid consistently results in increased soil respiration, and this increase is different for different soil types depending on soil composition and origin. Furthermore, we also found that beta alanine-induced maximum respiration in basic soils and L-glutamic in acidic soils. This study is significant because it can be used to explain how a strong reducing sugar, i.e., ascorbic acid, affects the soil respiration mediated via soil microbes. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first report that demonstrates the effect of bacteriostatic and the growth promoting agent together on microbe-mediated soil respiration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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1693 KiB  
Article
Effects of Different Land-Use Systems on Soil Aggregates: A Case Study of the Loess Plateau (Northern China)
by Shahmir Ali Kalhoro, Xuexuan Xu, Wenyuan Chen, Rui Hua, Sajjad Raza and Kang Ding
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1349; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9081349 - 1 Aug 2017
Cited by 47 | Viewed by 8937
Abstract
Soil aggregate stability is an important indicator for controlling soil losses and can improve soil quality, particularly in an area such as the Loess Plateau. The objective of this study was to estimate the differences in soil aggregates across six different land-use systems [...] Read more.
Soil aggregate stability is an important indicator for controlling soil losses and can improve soil quality, particularly in an area such as the Loess Plateau. The objective of this study was to estimate the differences in soil aggregates across six different land-use systems (grassland, apple orchard, abandoned apple orchard, cropland maize, cropland wheat, and shrub-grassland). For this purpose, dry and wet sieving techniques were employed to assess aggregate content and aggregate stability. Higher percentages of water stable aggregates were observed in the abandoned apple orchard and shrub-grassland at 63% and 61%, respectively. The maximum dry aggregate stability (%) was recorded at 78% and 77% in both wheat cropland and common apple orchard, and the abandoned apple orchard was only 74%. Both mean weight diameters and geometric mean diameters of aggregate were recorded as higher in grassland, shrub-grassland, and the abandoned apple orchard, than the other land uses. The formation of soil aggregates and their stability were positively correlated with soil organic carbon content and root biomass of different plant communities. Higher amounts of soil organic carbon content were noted in the abandoned apple orchard, common apple orchard, and natural grassland at the 0–20 cm soil layer. The results of the correlation coefficient showed a positive significant correlation between the mean weight diameter, geometric diameter, root biomass, and soil organic carbon content. Conclusively, the type of land use affected the soil aggregation and distribution of size fractions; the small fractions of the aggregates formed large fractions by combining with fresh organic matter, and increased soil organic carbon concentrations were closely linked with the formation of macro-aggregates. Thus, converting slope farmland to forestland and grassland could improve water-stable aggregate and reduce soil disturbances in areas (like the Loess Plateau) with the highest erosion risk. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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1433 KiB  
Article
Simulation on the Future Change of Soil Organic Carbon from Phaeozems under Different Management Practices in Northeast China
by Maoxin Zhang, Jing Zhang, Mingguo Liu, Liping Guo, Fawang Ma, Liyong Xie, Minggang Xu and Anping Yun
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1129; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9071129 - 28 Jun 2017
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4187
Abstract
The Phaeozem region is an important grain production base in China and soil fertility has declined under long-term cultivation. Studying soil organic carbon (SOC) change in the upland phaeozem of Northeast China under different tillage modes has great theoretical and practical significance for [...] Read more.
The Phaeozem region is an important grain production base in China and soil fertility has declined under long-term cultivation. Studying soil organic carbon (SOC) change in the upland phaeozem of Northeast China under different tillage modes has great theoretical and practical significance for reducing greenhouse gases emissions, increasing soil carbon stocks, and ensuring food security. This study applied the DAYCENT model to simulate six long-term experimental sites in the phaeozem region, and through calibration and validation analysis, it concluded that the DAYCENT model could effectively simulate the dynamic change of SOC in the upland phaeozems; hence, the relevant parameters of each site were determined. Under future climate scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5, RCP 4.5), SOC change in agricultural soils (0–20 cm topsoil) of four different management scenarios (fertilizer application, manure amendment, straw return, no-tillage) was simulated. The overall simulated trend was no-tillage > straw return > manure amendment > fertilizer application. Fertilizer had no evident effect on increasing SOC, but the effect would be better if combined with manure; both straw return and no-tillage had the general effect of improving SOC and the simulated values rose rapidly with a large increasing rate within a short period; however, the increasing rate became gentle after 2050, reached a relatively stable level after 2080, then gradually reached carbon saturation. Untill 2100, the SOC content of each site reached a relatively higher level by adopting the no-tillage treatment, where the SOC contents of Harbin, Hailun, Nehe, Dehui, Gongzhuling and Lishu were 2.36 g/100 g, 2.81 g/100 g, 2.22 g/100 g, 2.38 g/100 g, 1.97 g/100 g and 2.01 g/100 g, respectively. The SOC contents increased by 52.47% when compared with the initial value, and the simulated average annual increase of SOC for 84 years was 0.0082 g/100 g. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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2124 KiB  
Article
Reducing Global Warming Potential through Sustainable Intensification of Basmati Rice-Wheat Systems in India
by Tek B. Sapkota, Vivek Shankar, Munmun Rai, Mangi L Jat, Clare M. Stirling, Love K. Singh, Hanuman S. Jat and Mohinder S. Grewal
Sustainability 2017, 9(6), 1044; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9061044 - 21 Jun 2017
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 6275
Abstract
This study examines the effects of tillage, residue management and cropping system intensification through the inclusion of green gram on the performance of the rice-wheat (RW) system in NW India. We hypothesized that zero tillage (ZT) with residue retention provides a means of [...] Read more.
This study examines the effects of tillage, residue management and cropping system intensification through the inclusion of green gram on the performance of the rice-wheat (RW) system in NW India. We hypothesized that zero tillage (ZT) with residue retention provides a means of sustainably intensifying the RW system through lower production costs and higher economic profitability, whilst at the same time minimizing soil and environmental trade-offs. To test this hypothesis, we evaluated six combinations of tillage, residue management and green gram integration in RW rotation in northwest Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) of India. Treatments included in the study were: rice and wheat under conventional tillage (CT) with and without green gram (CTR-CTW, CTR-CTW+GG), both crops under zero-tillage (ZT) with and without green gram (ZTR-ZTW-R, ZTR-ZTW-R+GG) and both crops under ZT plus residues with and without green gram (ZTR-ZTW+R, ZTR-ZTW+R+GG). Based on two consecutive years of data, the net return from the RW system was significantly higher in the ZT than CT systems. Methane emissions were only observed under flooded conditions in CT rice plots; otherwise, emissions were negligible in all other treatment combinations. N2O emissions were dictated by N fertilizer application with no other treatment effects. Overall, ZT with residue retention resulted in the lowest global warming potential (GWP) ranging from −3301 to −823 kg CO2-eq ha−1 year−1 compared to 4113 to 7917 kg CO2-eq ha−1 year−1 in other treatments. Operational inputs (tillage, planting, and irrigation) and soil C sequestration had significant effects on total GWP. The water footprint of RW production system was about 29% less in CA-based system compared to CT-based systems. Our study concludes that ZTR-ZTW+R and ZTR-ZTW+R+GG in RW systems of northwestern IGP have the potential to be agronomically productive, economically viable with benefits also for the environment in terms of soil health and GHG emissions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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938 KiB  
Article
Effects of Continuous Tomato Monoculture on Soil Microbial Properties and Enzyme Activities in a Solar Greenhouse
by Hongdan Fu, Guoxian Zhang, Fan Zhang, Zhouping Sun, Guoming Geng and Tianlai Li
Sustainability 2017, 9(2), 317; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9020317 - 21 Feb 2017
Cited by 58 | Viewed by 9007
Abstract
Soil-related obstacles resulting from continuous monoculture have limited the sustainable development of the tomato industry in China. An experiment on tomatoes with seven continuous monoculture treatments (the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th crops, respectively) was conducted in a solar greenhouse, [...] Read more.
Soil-related obstacles resulting from continuous monoculture have limited the sustainable development of the tomato industry in China. An experiment on tomatoes with seven continuous monoculture treatments (the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th crops, respectively) was conducted in a solar greenhouse, to investigate the influence of monoculture on soil quality. Most soil quality indicators first increased and then decreased with increasing continuous monoculture crops, and significant differences among crops were observed. Indicators at the 13th crop were significantly lower than those at the other crops in terms of average well color development (AWCD), substrate richness (S), the Shannon diversity index (H), and the McIntosh index (U) of the soil microbial community (SMC), soil urease (UR), and neutral phosphatase (N-PHO) activities, and available nitrogen (AN) and potassium (AK). However, fungal abundance (FUN) at the 13th crop was significantly higher than that at the other crops. As principal component analysis (PCA) revealed, SMC functional diversity at the 1st, 11th, and 13th crops were similar, and were obviously distinguished from those at the other crops. Moreover, the tomato yield was significantly and positively correlated with soil-available potassium and SMC functional diversity indexes. Our findings indicated that short-term continuous monoculture, e.g., for fewer than seven or nine crops, was beneficial for soil quality improvement. However, continuous monoculture for greater than 11 crops had adverse effects on soil enzyme activities, soil microbial abundances, soil chemical properties, soil SMC functional diversity, and the tomato yield, particularly at the 13th crop. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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1168 KiB  
Article
Forecasting Helianthus annuus Seed Quality Based on Soil Chemical Properties Using Radial Basis Function Neural Networks
by Wenbo Li, Dongyan Wang, Dan Yu, Yuefen Li and Shuhan Liu
Sustainability 2016, 8(10), 1055; https://doi.org/10.3390/su8101055 - 20 Oct 2016
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 4568
Abstract
Forecasting crop chemical characteristics based on soil properties is not only a possible way to spare supplementary sampling and testing, but also a potential method of instructing cultivation planning based on regional soil surveys. In this paper, taking the data of regional agricultural [...] Read more.
Forecasting crop chemical characteristics based on soil properties is not only a possible way to spare supplementary sampling and testing, but also a potential method of instructing cultivation planning based on regional soil surveys. In this paper, taking the data of regional agricultural geological survey on Helianthus annuus sources in the western part of the Jilin province as an attempt, radial basis function neural networks were used to forecast the quality indexes of Helianthus annuus seeds based on the non-linear relationship between soil and crop. The results indicate the following: (1) The mean relative errors of vitamin E, protein, fat, and TAA concentration forecasting neural networks are 2.63%, 2.19%, 2.19%, and 2.80%, respectively. The root mean square errors are 1.7 mg/100 g, 0.59%, 1.09%, and 0.77%. The forecasting radial basis function neural networks are of high prediction accuracy, which introduces an empirical case of forecasting the quality of crop based on a systematical soil environmental quality investigation along with a sampling survey of the crops. To set a proper model, interrelation between the selected indexes of input layer and output layer needs to be confirmed first, and a low setting of spread can improve the accuracy; (2) Soil in the studied area is under severe salinization, and concentrations of soil chemical properties mostly show an evident regional difference between the three experimental fields. However, the vitamin E, protein, and TAA concentrations of Helianthus annuus seeds all stabilize in a certain range despite the different soil environments. The mean fat concentration of Helianthus annuus seeds collected from Nongan and Daan exceeds those from Tongyu by approximately 5%, which shows a relatively evident regional difference. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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3760 KiB  
Article
Soil Organic Carbon Stocks in Terrestrial Ecosystems of China: Revised Estimation on Three-Dimensional Surfaces
by Rui Zhou, Xianzhang Pan, Hongxu Wei, Xianli Xie, Changkun Wang, Ya Liu, Yanli Li and Rongjie Shi
Sustainability 2016, 8(10), 1003; https://doi.org/10.3390/su8101003 - 14 Oct 2016
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 5549
Abstract
The estimation of soil organic carbon (SOC) stock in terrestrial ecosystems of China is of particular importance because it exerts a major influence on worldwide terrestrial carbon (C) storage and global climate change. Map-based estimates of SOC stocks conducted in previous studies have [...] Read more.
The estimation of soil organic carbon (SOC) stock in terrestrial ecosystems of China is of particular importance because it exerts a major influence on worldwide terrestrial carbon (C) storage and global climate change. Map-based estimates of SOC stocks conducted in previous studies have typically been applied on planimetric areas, which led to the underestimation of SOC stock. In the present study, SOC stock in China was estimated using a revised method on three-dimensional (3-D) surfaces, which considered the undulation of the landforms. Data were collected from the 1:4 M China Soil Map and a search work from the Second Soil Survey in China. Results indicated that the SOC stocks were 28.8 Pg C and 88.5 Pg C in soils at depths of 0–20 cm and 0–100 cm, corresponding to significant increases of 5.66% and 5.44%, respectively. Regression analysis revealed that the SOC stock accumulated with the increase of areas on 3-D surfaces. These results provide more reasonable estimates and new references about SOC stocks in terrestrial ecosystems of China. The method of estimation on 3-D surfaces has scientific meaning to promote the development of new approaches to estimate accurate SOC stocks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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Review

Jump to: Research

1536 KiB  
Review
Enzymatic Degradation of Lignin in Soil: A Review
by Rahul Datta, Aditi Kelkar, Divyashri Baraniya, Ali Molaei, Amitava Moulick, Ram Swaroop Meena and Pavel Formanek
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1163; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9071163 - 3 Jul 2017
Cited by 244 | Viewed by 16007
Abstract
Lignin is a major component of soil organic matter and also a rich source of carbon dioxide in soils. However, because of its complex structure and recalcitrant nature, lignin degradation is a major challenge. Efforts have been made from time to time to [...] Read more.
Lignin is a major component of soil organic matter and also a rich source of carbon dioxide in soils. However, because of its complex structure and recalcitrant nature, lignin degradation is a major challenge. Efforts have been made from time to time to understand the lignin polymeric structure better and develop simpler, economical, and bio-friendly methods of degradation. Certain enzymes from specialized bacteria and fungi have been identified by researchers that can metabolize lignin and enable utilization of lignin-derived carbon sources. In this review, we attempt to provide an overview of the complexity of lignin’s polymeric structure, its distribution in forest soils, and its chemical nature. Herein, we focus on lignin biodegradation by various microorganism, fungi and bacteria present in plant biomass and soils that are capable of producing ligninolytic enzymes such as lignin peroxidase (LiP), manganese peroxidase (MnP), versatile peroxidase (VP), and dye-decolorizing peroxidase (DyP). The relevant and recent reports have been included in this review. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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5532 KiB  
Review
Soil Conservation Issues in India
by Ranjan Bhattacharyya, Birendra Nath Ghosh, Pradeep Dogra, Prasanta Kumar Mishra, Priyabrata Santra, Suresh Kumar, Michael Augustine Fullen, Uttam Kumar Mandal, Kokkuvayil Sankaranarayanan Anil, Manickam Lalitha, Dibyendu Sarkar, Dibyendu Mukhopadhyay, Krishnendu Das, Madan Pal, Rajbir Yadav, Ved Prakash Chaudhary and Brajendra Parmar
Sustainability 2016, 8(6), 565; https://doi.org/10.3390/su8060565 - 18 Jun 2016
Cited by 30 | Viewed by 24926
Abstract
Despite years of study and substantial investment in remediation and prevention, soil erosion continues to be a major environmental problem with regard to land use in India and elsewhere around the world. Furthermore, changing climate and/or weather patterns are exacerbating the problem. Our [...] Read more.
Despite years of study and substantial investment in remediation and prevention, soil erosion continues to be a major environmental problem with regard to land use in India and elsewhere around the world. Furthermore, changing climate and/or weather patterns are exacerbating the problem. Our objective was to review past and current soil conservation programmes in India to better understand how production-, environmental-, social-, economic- and policy-related issues have affected soil and water conservation and the incentives needed to address the most critical problems. We found that to achieve success in soil and water conservation policies, institutions and operations must be co-ordinated using a holistic approach. Watershed programmes have been shown to be one of the most effective strategies for bringing socio-economic change to different parts of India. Within both dryland and rainfed areas, watershed management has quietly revolutionized agriculture by aligning various sectors through technological soil and water conservation interventions and land-use diversification. Significant results associated with various watershed-scale soil and water conservation programmes and interventions that were effective for reducing land degradation and improving productivity in different parts of the country are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Science in Conservation Agricultural Systems)
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