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Sustainable soil management measures: a synthesis of stakeholder recommendations (2023)

Strauss V., Paul C., Dönmez C., Löbmann M., Helming K.

Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 43 (1),

doi:10.1007/s13593-022-00864-7

Abstract

AbstractSoil degradation threatens agricultural production and soil multifunctionality. Efforts for private and public governance are increasingly emerging to leverage sustainable soil management. They require consensus across science, policy, and practice about what sustainable soil management entails. Such agreement does not yet exist to a sufficient extent in agronomic terms; what is lacking is a concise list of soil management measures that enjoy broad support among all stakeholders, and evidence on the question what hampers their implementation by farmers. We therefore screened stakeholder documents from public governance institutions, nongovernmental organizations, the agricultural industry, and conventional and organic farmer associations for recommendations related to agricultural soil management in Germany. Out of 46 recommended measures in total, we compiled a shortlist of the seven most consensual ones: (1) structural landscape elements, (2) organic fertilization, (3) diversified crop rotation, (4) permanent soil cover, (5) conservation tillage, (6) reduced soil loads, and (7) optimized timing of wheeling. Together, these measures support all agricultural soil functions, and address all major soil threats except soil contamination. Implementation barriers were identified with the aid of an online survey among farmers (n = 78). Results showed that a vast majority of farmers (> 80%) approved of all measures. Barriers were mostly considered to be economic and in some cases technological, while missing knowledge or other factors were less relevant. Barriers were stronger for those measures that cannot be implemented in isolation, but require a systemic diversification of the production system. This is especially the case for measures that are simultaneously beneficial to many soil functions (measures 2, 3, and 4). Results confirm the need for a diversification of the agricultural system in order to meet challenges of food security and climate change. The shortlist presents the first integrative compilation of sustainable soil management measures supporting the design of effective public or private governance. BonaRes Centre