• The elusive role of soil quality in nutrient cycling: a review

      Schröder, J. J.; Schulte, R. P. O.; Creamer, R. E.; Delgado, A.; Leeuwen, J.; Lehtinen, T.; Rutgers, M.; Spiegel, H.; Staes, J.; Tóth, G.; et al. (Wiley, 2016-09-16)
      Cycling of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, is one of the ecosystem services we expect agricultural soils to deliver. Nutrient cycling incorporates the reuse of agricultural, industrial and municipal organic residues that, misleadingly, are often referred to as ‘wastes’. The present review disentangles the processes underlying the cycling of nutrients to better understand which soil properties determine the performance of that function. Four processes are identified (i) the capacity to receive nutrients, (ii) the capacity to make and keep nutrients available to crops, (iii) the capacity to support the uptake of nutrients by crops and (iv) the capacity to support their successful removal in harvested crop. Soil properties matter but it is imperative that, as constituents of ‘soil quality’, they should be evaluated in the context of management options and climate and not as ends in their own right. The effect of a soil property may vary depending on the prevailing climatic and hydrologic conditions and on other soil properties. We recognize that individual soil properties may be enhancing one of the processes underlying the cycling of nutrients but simultaneously weakening others. Competing demands on soil properties are even more obvious when considering other soil functions such as primary production, purification and flow regulation of water, climate modification and habitat provision, as shown by examples. Consequently, evaluations of soil properties and management actions need to be site-specific, taking account of local aspects of their suitability and potential challenges.
    • Exploring the sensitivity of visual soil evaluation to traffic-induced soil compaction

      Emmet-Booth, J.P.; Holden, N.M.; Fenton, Owen; Bondi, G.; Forristal, P.D.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13/S/468 (Elsevier BV, 2020-03)
      Visual Soil Evaluation (VSE) techniques are useful for assessing the impact of land management, particularly the identification and remediation of soil compaction. Despite an increasing body of VSE research, comparatively few studies have explored the sensitivity of VSE for capturing experimentally imposed compaction to estimate sensitivity and limit of detection. The aim of this research was to examine the ability of VSE techniques to indicate soil structure at different soil profile depths and to measure the associated soil productive function (yield) response to imposed compaction. A two-year experiment was conducted on sites with loam and sandy soils. Varying levels of wheeled traffic were imposed on plots in a randomised block design, prior to sowing winter barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). Quantitative crop and soil measurements were taken throughout the season in conjunction with VSE techniques, which assessed to 25 cm (VESS), 40 cm (Double Spade) and 80 cm (SubVESS) depth. Graduated changes were observed by soil and some crop quantitative measurements as traffic treatment varied. VESS and Double Spade successfully identified a graduated treatment effect at all sites to 40 cm depth, although diagnosis translated into a yield response for the loam but not the sandy soil. Correlation between VESS Sq scores and crop yield were found. SubVESS gave mixed signals and indicated impacts lower in the profile in certain instances. These impacts were not captured by quantitative soil measurements. This work highlights the capacity for VSE techniques to indicate soil structural damage, which may cause a crop yield response, therefore allowing appropriate soil management strategies to be deployed before yield penalties occur.