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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Soil-Improving Cropping Systems for Sustainable and Profitable Farming in Europe

Hessel, Rudi; Wyseure, Guido; Panagea, Ioanna S.; Alaoui, Abdallah; Reed, Mark S.; van Delden, Hedwig; Muro, Melanie; Mills, Jane; Oenema, Oene; Areal, Francisco; van den Elsen, Erik; Verzandvoort, Simone; Assinck, Falentijn; Elsen, Annemie; Lipiec, Jerzy; Koutroulis, Aristeidis; O'Sullivan, Lilian; Bolinder, Martin A.; Fleskens, Luuk; Kandeler, Ellen;
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Soils form the basis for agricultural production and other ecosystem services, and soil management should aim at improving their quality and resilience. Within the SoilCare project, the concept of soil-improving cropping systems (SICS) was developed as a holistic approach to facilitate the adoption of soil management that is sustainable and profitable. SICS selected with stakeholders were monitored and evaluated for environmental, sociocultural, and economic effects to determine profitability and sustainability. Monitoring results were upscaled to European level using modelling and Europe-wide data, and a mapping tool was developed to assist in selection of appropriate SICS across Europe. Furthermore, biophysical, sociocultural, economic, and policy reasons for (non)adoption were studied. Results at the plot/farm scale showed a small positive impact of SICS on environment and soil, no effect on sustainability, and small negative impacts on economic and sociocultural dimensions. Modelling showed that different SICS had different impacts across Europe-indicating the importance of understanding local dynamics in Europe-wide assessments. Work on adoption of SICS confirmed the role economic considerations play in the uptake of SICS, but also highlighted social factors such as trust. The project's results underlined the need for policies that support and enable a transition to more sustainable agricultural practices in a coherent way.


soil quality; sustainable soil management; adoption; crop management; environmental dimension; sociocultural dimension; economic dimension

Published in

2022, volume: 11, number: 6, article number: 780
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Hessel, Rudi
Wageningen University and Research
Wyseure, Guido
KU Leuven
Panagea, Ioanna S.
KU Leuven
Alaoui, Abdallah
University of Bern
Reed, Mark S.
Newcastle University - UK
van Delden, Hedwig
Research Institute for Knowledge Systems (RIKS)
Muro, Melanie
Milieu Consulting SRL
Mills, Jane
University of Gloucestershire
Oenema, Oene
Wageningen University and Research
Areal, Francisco
Newcastle University - UK
van den Elsen, Erik
Wageningen University and Research
Verzandvoort, Simone
Wageningen University and Research
Assinck, Falentijn
Wageningen University and Research
Elsen, Annemie
Bodemkundige Dienst Belgie
Lipiec, Jerzy
Polish Academy of Sciences
Koutroulis, Aristeidis
Technical University of Crete
O'Sullivan, Lilian
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Fleskens, Luuk
Wageningen University and Research
Kandeler, Ellen
University Hohenheim
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Sustainable Development Goals

SDG2 Zero hunger
SDG8 Decent work and economic growth
SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science
Soil Science
Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers


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