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World Soil Day focuses on the very basis of life: soil

Research at Aarhus University contributes to protecting agricultural soil, which is challenged by modern management. The UN’s World Soil Day on December 5 focuses on the threats to soil quality.

[Translate to English:] Jordens Dag den 5. december sætter fokus på vores livsgrundlag: dyrkningsjorden. Det gør forskere fra Aarhus Universitet også til dagligt. Foto: Janne Hansen

December 5 has been appointed World Soil Day by the United Nations. This is to emphasize the role that agricultural soil plays with regard to food security and environmental protection. Scientists from Aarhus University address soil quality in their research year round. This includes their participation in the European research project RECARE, a project that is led by Wageningen University in The Netherlands. 

- The answer to challenges such as food security, flooding, and climate change lies in the soil. Soil – the Earth’s thin and fragile crust – is complex and still not fully understood, but every year scientific research contributes to increased insight into the importance of the soil for life on Earth, says senior researcher Per Schjønning from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University. 

He is the leader of a case study in RECARE that seeks practical solutions to the challenge of maintaining fertile soils. The project involves participants from more than 20 European countries from Iceland in the north to Cyprus in the south. 

During the first years, the project has focused on determining the best possible management to avoid soil degradation. In Denmark, Aarhus University has collaborated with the commercial company AgroIntelli to investigate the problem of soil compaction. Two workshops gathered farmers, advisers, producers of agricultural machinery, contractors, environmental and other organisations, and representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark to discuss possible solutions.    

A series of field tests have now been established based on such discussions between researchers and other stakeholders. This is the case in the Danish case study regarding soil compaction as well as in all of the other case studies in the project (which include e.g. erosion, loss of organic matter, pollution, desertification and landslides). 

- RECARE is an exciting and extremely relevant project. We also worked with soil compaction prior to the project. RECARE’s concept of including stakeholders besides researchers has provided valuable exchanges of experience that will be central in the last part of the project. The RECARE case study on compaction aims to prepare general proposals to mitigate the compaction damage, which will possibly include EU regulation of traffic in the field. The achieved results will thus impact all of the EU, says Per Schjønning. 

Read about World Soil Day here

For more information please contact:

Senior researcher Per Schjønning, Department of Agroecology, telephone: +45 8715 7725, e-mail: per.schjonning@agro.au.dk