Contribution to the Soil Health call for evidence

Identified points of EJP SOIL evidence of contribution in relation to the objectives and policy options of a Soil Health Law perspective.

EJP SOIL acknowledges and supports the vision of the new European Soil Strategy to have all soils in healthy condition by 2050 and to make protection, sustainable use and restoration of soils the new normal. EJP SOIL’s efforts and contribution is to foster knowledge development, knowledge sharing and transfer, knowledge organization and harmonization, and knowledge implementation towards climate-smart and sustainable management of agricultural soils.

Based on the contribution document to the Soil Health call for evidence, highlights are listed below for a brief overview. Read more in the contribution document to the Soil Health call for evidence, click here.

Soil health definition

Soil Health has been defined by the Mission “A soil deal for Europe” as follows: The continued capacity of soils to support ecosystem services. EJP SOIL support this definition in an expanded version and suggests to increase attention to cultural ecosystem services.

Indicators of soil health and their range of values

While a unique indicators framework is needed for monitoring soil health and to conceive and support a policy aiming at rendering healthy European soils, the reference of values of soil health indicators need to be context-specific including e.g. climate, soil type, land use.

The EJP SOIL project SIREN provides a stocktake of soil quality indicators focusing on agricultural soils with reference to twenty European countries. The on-going EJP SOIL project SERENA aims to model and map agricultural soil-based ecosystem services.

Requirements for the sustainable use of soils

Assessing requirements for the sustainable use of soils must be accompanied with the definition of a set of sustainable soil management practices that do not hamper biodiversity or the functions that enable the soil related ecosystem services.

An EJP SOIL survey of soil stakeholders from twenty-four European countries identified sustainable agricultural soil management practices. Below, example selection of essential practices (For further detailed list, refer to the contribution document to the Soil Health call for evidence):

  • Crop and cropping systems: diversified crop rotation, cover crops and catch crops;
  • Soil tillage and cover: non-inversion/reduced tillage, no tillage;
  • Nutrients management and crop protection: use of organic and mineral fertilizers appropriate for site  and production system, use of soil amendments and biofertilizers;
  • Water management: appropriate drainage systems, efficient irrigation, improved water storage capacity.

A database of currently 218 Long Term Experiment fields in Europe, in which different management options for agricultural soils are being compared, provides a unique platform to evaluate the ability of agricultural practices and systems to preserve and restores soil health.

Monitoring and reporting the condition of soils

To harmonize soil information, to increase soil data sharing and to align National Soil Monitoring systems, there is an urgent need to develop standardized methods of analysis.

Recommendations from EJP SOIL stocktakes on soil data management and sharing in Europe and on the existing National Soil monitoring systems include:

  • Promoting the designation of officially appointed soil officers;
  • Promoting  networking between soil data owners/holders and public institutions;
  • Developing and implementing specific national transpositional laws in relation to the sharing of soil information;
  • Developing capacity building on INSPIRE implementation and its technical aspects.

Measures that can contribute to reducing nutrient losses by 50% and fertilizer use by 20%

Consultations performed across twenty-four European countries demonstrate that there is room to improve fertilizer strategies for efficiency and productivity, whilst reducing environmental impacts. The trade-offs between soil organic carbon sequestration and N and P losses by leaching, by ammonia volatilization or by N2O emissions need to be better understood, and mitigation measures proposed. This is being addressed by the EJP SOIL projects SOMMIT, TRACE-Soils and INSURE.

For further information and references:

For full text of the contribution document to the call of evidence with annexes and references, click here.

Full text of the EJP SOIL public deliverables can be found at www.ejpsoil.euKnowledge Sharing Platform.

Contact information: click here.