Healthy Soil forHealthy Food

Extending the time span when we expect the soil to remain healthy is key to the future of food.

Our goal is to achieve that the soil can support healthy food production according to its natural potential for longer, increasing the overall potential of agricultural fields.

We’re researching all three components of soil health – physical, chemical, and biological – to identify opportunities for sustainable food production.

Our Areas of Research

We develop methods for soil health management in plant based organic farming.

Determining what is a healthy soil

We research literature, talk to field managers and contact soil laboratories to find the most appropriate set of indicators to calculate the Soil Health Index. The basic ones include soil texture, aggregate stability, organic matter (humus) and soil respiration. They would help us understand what led to a decrease in yield when it happens, and point to missed opportunities for repair and improvement of conditions for plant development.

Understanding nitrogen levels in soil

Our software provides information on soil nitrogen available to plants at any moment based on the user input. This information is used to plan crop rotations and nitrogen fertilization management.

An incubation trial helped us determine the capacity of the soil for mineralisation of nitrogen from harvest residues. We found that the largest amount of mineralized nitrogen was obtained from peas, while harvest residues of wheat, rye, flax and sunflower showed weak potential in providing readily available nitrogen for the next crop. Further research will give us more detailed information, as the chosen model (first-order kinetic model) did not prove to be a suitable statistical model for estimating soil nitrogen mineralization dynamics.

We’re now exploring systems like NDICEA for further research.

For easy interaction with NDICEA systems, we worked together with our colleagues from the Louis Bolk Institute and created an interface to simplify the estimation of nitrogen dynamics in agricultural soils with a full set of over 30 NDICEA parameters.

Can green manure compensate for the loss of humus?

A long term soil preparation trial helps us understand the difference between plowing and reduced tillage when it comes to CO2 emissions and humus content dynamics in soil which was treated with green manure. Plowing can help control certain weeds compared to reduced tillage but it also lowers humus content. The challenge of reducing humus content is expected to be addressed by the use of green manure.

This study will help craft more sustainable methods for farmers to use on their large-scale fields.

To support the transition towards livestock-free sustainable production, our knowledge and solutions will be shared with the world for free.

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