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Review article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Sustainable soil management: Soil knowledge use and gaps in Europe

Thorsoe, Martin Hvarregaard; Keesstra, Saskia; De Boever, Maarten; Buchova, Kristina; Boe, Frederik; Castanheira, Nadia L.; Chenu, Claire; Cornu, Sophie; Don, Axel; Fohrafellner, Julia; Farina, Roberta; Fornara, Dario; da Conceicao Goncalves, Maria; Graversgaard, Morten; Heller, Olivier; Inselsbacher, Erich; Jacobs, Anna; Mavsar, Sara; Meurer, Katharina H. E.; Mihelic, Rok;
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Soils are the foundation of agricultural production, ecosystem functioning and human well-being. Bridging soil knowledge gaps and improving the knowledge system is crucial to meet the growing EU soil policy ambitions in the face of climate change and the ongoing trend in soil degradation. The objective of this article is to assess the current state of knowledge, knowledge use and knowledge gaps concerning sustainable soil management in Europe. This study is based on interviews with 791 stakeholders and 254 researchers and on a comprehensive review of >1800 documents carried out under the European Joint Programme on agricultural soils. Despite differences in stakeholder groups, the conclusions are rather consistent and complementary. We identified major knowledge gaps with respect to (1) soil carbon stocks, (2) soil degradation and fertility and (3) strategies for improved soil management. Transcending these three areas, particularly the loss of soil organic carbon, peatland degradation and soil compaction, are most critical, thus, we stress the urgency of developing more models and monitoring programmes on soils. Stakeholders further report that insufficient transfer of existing soil research findings to practitioners is a hindrance to the adoption of sustainable soil management practices. In addition to knowledge production, soil knowledge gaps may be addressed by considering seven recommendations from the stakeholders: (1) raising awareness, (2) strengthening knowledge brokers, (3) improving relevance of research activities and resource allocation for land users, (4) peer-to-peer communication, (5) targeting advice and information, (6) improving knowledge access, and (7) providing incentives. We argue that filling and bridging knowledge gaps should be a priority for policymakers and the insights provided in the article may help prioritise research and dissemination needs enabling a transition to more sustainable soil management in Europe.


EJP SOIL; soil health; soil policy; soil use challenges; stakeholder involvement; sustainable soil management

Published in

European Journal of Soil Science
2023, Volume: 74, number: 6, article number: e13439
Publisher: WILEY

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Soil Science

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