Good soil management is the basis for life cycle agriculture. The soil can provide a solution (in part) to the problems that society is increasingly struggling with, such as biodiversity loss, water management (qualitative and quantitative), climate change mitigation and adaptation, and last but not least food production for the growing global population.
The soil is the foundation for life cycle agriculture and the hub of a resilient system of cultivation that will withstand climate change. Aspects that most determine the way in which the soil functions are: the management of organic matter and soil fertility, the management of soil structure and the water cycle, and the management of soil life and soil resilience. In view of this, a high soil quality is of vital importance to various societal issues. The professorship’s focus lies on the following themes:
Integral approach and customization
This concerns further development, implementation and expansion of (existing) knowledge and tools in the professional practice of sustainable soil management. Some examples of what we work with in projects in the field are the tools used to calculate the balance in organic matter (including Ndicea), the soil quality assessment (including ‘Bodemconditiescore’ = soil condition score), and integral consultancy (‘Bodemkwaliteitsplan’= soil quality plan). On this basis, students learn how to provide plot-specific advice. This is also the basis for training soil consultants.
In current agricultural practice, ongoing upscaling, intensification of crop rotation systems and changes in (more extreme) precipitation patterns cause a continually increasing risk of subsurface compaction. The professorship has a soil-physics laboratory, a covered soil trough with pressure sensors, and a mobile measuring unit that is used to measure soil pressure, soil penetration resistance and soil compaction. In various projects, these facilities are developed and applied further. Research focuses on awareness, monitoring and demonstration to farmers, agricultural contractors and advisory services to supply possible actions that they can take to prevent and eliminate soil compaction.
Life cycle agriculture revolves around closing carbon and nutrient life cycles. The soil and soil life in particular are the key link. Various national and regional projects are assisted in word and deed by the professorship in measuring, interpreting and stimulating soil life. Organic soil management plays an essential part. There is great demand for the dissemination of knowledge. Examples of projects that we collaborate on are: Slim Landgebruik (LNV) (translation: Smart Land Use), Biodivers Perspectief (Noord-Holland) (translation: Biodiverse Perspective), Foodvalley – Boer aan het Roer (translation: Food Valley – Farmer behind the Wheel), and Mineral Valley Twente.
Connection with education
It is remarkable how often agricultural education is mentioned as an essential partner in the dissemination of the knowledge that is needed on sustainable surface management and on training the entrepreneurs of the future.
- Aeres University of Applied Sciences has a learning continuity pathway with soil-related learning modules, called ‘Soil Profile’. One element is the ‘Vital Soil’ minor that focuses on an integral approach, deepening of knowledge and practical assignments. Students who choose the Soil Profile minor, become soil experts at a university of applied sciences level, have a critical and investigative attitude, and are perfectly capable of handling the complexity and the innovations that come with sustainable soil management in professional practice. This is partly created by the challenging learning environment provided via the professorship in practice-oriented research projects, in collaboration with industry, government agencies and research institutes. The teacher researchers ensure that the knowledge and experience gained in research projects is embedded in the curriculum.
- The professorship provides a closed platform where existing and new instructional materials about soil and climate is disclosed to teachers in secondary and tertiary vocational education (Slim Landgebruik).
- Flevo – Land on the Move (subsurface compaction and subsidence) (SIA, the Province of Flevoland)
- Sustainable soil management (SIA/LNV; CoE Groen 2.0 )
- Training and certification of soil consultants (assigned by LNV, I&W; in collaboration with DAW)
- Soil compaction (various projects assigned by the Province of Flevoland)
- The professorship’s role in the knowledge infrastructure (assigned by the Province of Flevoland, UP Soil & Subsurface)