26–28 Feb 2018  |  Berlin  |  Germany

Breaking new ground for sustainable management of soil functions along the frontiers of soil ecosystem research

Soil as a Sustainable Resource

Topics BonaRes Conference

1. Impact of agriculture and cropping systems on soil functions and ecosystem services

Convener: N. Brüggemann, M. Schloter, R. Grosch, H.-J. Vogel

Keynote Speaker: Marcel von der Heijden (Agroscope, Zurich), Christopher Collins (University of Reading)

Agricultural soils are increasingly under pressure due to the event increasing demands of crop production for food and bioenergy. It is a formidable challenge to maintain or even increase the productivity of soils and, at the same time, to preserve all other basic soil functions beyond plant production. These soil functions are in the same way indispensable for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems: reactor for nutrient cycling, filter and buffer for water, storage of carbon and habitat for an overwhelming biodiversity. They emerge from complex interactions between physical, chemical and biological processes in soil. Because of their complex nature, there are no simple and direct means to quantify soil functions as required for any scientific analysis. Instead, a systemic perspective is required to evaluate the impact of agricultural systems on soil functions.

The intention of this session is threefold. We seek contributions which (i) broaden and advance our perspective on soil functions, (ii) enhance our current process understanding of how soil management practices impact one or more of the basic soil functions, and (iii) show how to quantify soil functions based on suitable proxies or indicators.

2. Effects of plant - microbe - fauna interactions on soil functions

Convener: T. Winkelmann, M. Schloter, K. Smalla, B. Reinhold-Hurek,  D. Russell, B. Lang

Keynote Speaker: Mark Mazzola (USDA)

Soil biota can be considered as the architects of soil quality and health. The functional traits provided are unique and drive important ecosystem services including plant development, degradation of xenobiotics, carbon sequestration and protection from erosion. However, selected soil biota also act as plant pathogens and induce the formation of climate relevant trace gases like methane and N2O. Thus it is important to understand how agricultural management as well as site-specific conditions trigger the structure and function of the soil biome. However, due to the enormous diversity of biota in soil, only recent methodological developments have made an assessment of the soil biome possible.

This session invites contributions related to (i) understanding interaction patterns between plants and biomes under different agricultural management, (ii) defining strategies to overcome imbalances in the soil biome, causing increased levels of plant diseases, (iii) unraveling plant responses on the genetic and physiological level to soils with imbalances in the soil biome (such as replant soils, diseased soils…), (iv) understanding drivers for organismic interactions of different trophic levels.

3. Nutrient and carbon dynamics within the root zone as affected by soil management

Convener: P. Leinweber, W. Amelung, M. Dannenmann

Keynote Speaker: Philippe Hinsinger (INRA Montpellier)

Soil management, e.g. the major form of land use (forest, grassland, arable), the intensity of soil management (e.g. fertilizer and pesticide applications; frequency of cropping and harvests etc.) and detailed management measures (e.g. crop rotations, tillage, fertilization and manuring) all affect the transformations of organic matter and nutrients in soil. Therefore, soil management also affects the economic and environmental soil functions, which are related to nutrient and organic matter turnover. The root zone is a hot spot of these transformations and biogeochemical processes, because of the close and intensive interactions of plants, microbes and reactive soil surfaces. This session invites contributions to a better understanding of these interlinked processes in soils that are differently managed. Therefore, studies based on investigations of long-term experiments, climate change studies, and on interdisciplinary approaches are especially welcome. In particular, studies demonstrating the knowledge gains by applications of advanced molecular-biological approaches and chemical-analytical techniques, imaging techniques, rhizosphere microsensors, as well as stable isotope applications to rhizosphere-related transformation processes are expected in this session. The outcome of the session contributions shall stimulate new approaches to a better soil management under current and/or future climatic conditions by improved understanding of benefits and limitations arising from various management options.

4. Soil structure and water dynamics as affected by soil management

Convener: H.-J. Vogel, R. Duttmann

Keynote Speaker: Iain Young (University of Sydney), Paul Hallet (University of Aberdeen)

Soil structure, that is the spatial organization of pores and solid material in soil, is of fundamental importance for many soil functions. It determines the dynamic distribution of water and gas, the soil’s accessibility for roots, and it forms the habitat of the huge diversity of soil biota. Soil structure is heavily affected by agricultural soil management. This is obvious for traffic loads and tillage practices. It is also true for crop rotations since different plants have different capacities for soil structure formation especially below the upper tilled layer. This session invites contributions related to i) structure formation by tillage and plants, ii) relation of soil structure to soil functions (water dynamics, root growth, biological activity, nutrient and carbon dynamics) and iii) methodological tools to quantify soil structural properties as potential indicators for soil functions.

5. New sensing technologies, soil monitoring approaches and related decision support systems for sustainable soil management

Convener: R. Gebbers, M. Lorenz

Keynote Speaker: Cornelia Weltzin (ATB Potsdam), Dr. Peter Weisskopf (Agroscope Switzerland)

Effective management of arable soils usually takes place at the field scale. The farmer is directly working with the soil while he is influenced by agronomic extensionists, consultants, machine manufacturers and socio-economic conditions. Wrong management decisions can deteriorate soil fertility, e.g. by soil compaction and overfertilization. To take and apply appropriate measures, farmers and their advisors need information about relevant soil properties. However, facing the spatio-temporal in-field variability of soils, classical methods of soil assessment, based on soil sampling and laboratory analysis, are often too costly and time-consuming to provide effective information for practical decision making in modern agriculture.

In-situ sensing technologies, which provide timely information with high resolution and at low cost, will play a central role in assessing the soil condition for future farming. These sensing technologies include e.g. machine mounted sensors, sensor platforms or single hand sensors which detect different soil and plant parameters. In combination, sensing technologies and soil monitoring approaches give a hint about the spatial and temporal variability at field or regional scale. This approach, however, will create a huge amount of data that needs to be managed and evaluated. Thus, sensing technologies and soil monitoring approaches cannot be thought without reliable decision support systems which transfer data into knowledge. These decision support systems should cope with new sensor based data, which includes automatic screening, compression and calibration. They should include dynamic soil and crop models and they should operate in real- or near-real-time. The combination of sensors, models and decision support systems could help the farmers to apply soil conserving measures and new management techniques as well as to optimize machine parameters or tillage and fertilizer application.

We seek contributions on soil fertility management at the field scale by (i) new proximal soil and machine sensing technologies related to physical, chemical, biological parameters of soil fertility; (ii) mathematical methods for interpreting sensor data (calibration, data fusion); (iii) new methods of soil monitoring approaches e.g. monitoring of soil parameters, soil stresses or plant development. (iv) spatio-temporally resolved soil and crop models that make use of data from modern sensors; (v) decision support systems that include data from new sensor systems (off-line or real-time decision on, e.g., fertilization, tillage, trafficking, machine adjustment).

6. Assessment and governance for sustainable soil management

Convener: K. Helming, T. Köllner, B. Hansjürgens, K. Daedlow

Keynote Speaker: Gudrun Schwilch (CDE Bern)

The role of soil functions for achieving Sustainable Development Goals is multifarious. The productivity function is essential for food and biomass provision in support of food security (SDG 2) and energy security (SDG 7), soil carbon sequestration is paramount for climate action (SDG 13), and water purification and retention, nutrient and matter cycling, and the habitat function are essential for maintaining ecosystem services (SDG 15). While these soil functions emerge from interactive soil processes, it is the soil management that determines the functional performances of soils relative to their geo-biophysical potentials. The key for sustainable soil management is to stimulate soil processes such that trade-offs between functions are minimized and their performances and synergies are optimized. In addition to improved soil process knowledge this requires profound interdisciplinary methods built upon systemic perspectives for the assessment and governance of sustainable soil management. What are the impacts of soil management practices on sustainability targets in specific geophysical and socio-economic contexts? What methodological approaches, indicators and metrics are suitable to assess, inter alia, resource efficiencies, ecosystem services, cost-benefit-ratios and risks to human health? What are the opportunities and risks of current and future soil management technologies with regards to sustainability targets? How can different spatio-temporal settings and spill-over effects be addressed? How can institutions and governance instruments be improved to enable decision makers to take action on sustainable soil management? How can soil management impacts be valued in light of varying normative perspectives and ethical concepts? What roles do stakeholders and their perceptions play for impact valuing of soil management decision making?

This session welcomes contributions dealing with methodological improvements and applications for impact assessment and governance of soil management systems from the perspective of sustainable developments. Thematic contributions may include: Farmers perceptions on soil management, metrics and indicators for assessing resource efficiency of soil management, relation between soil functions and ecosystem services, ethical considerations of sustainable soil management, institutional issues, governance instruments and policy analysis. The session is connected to a special issue under the same topic in the journal Sustainability (MDPI). Contributors are highly welcomed to submit a manuscript to this special issue with the deadline 31. March 2018.

For information see http://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/special_issues/Soil_Management

7. Linking data and models in soil science – Towards efficient workflows for data-model integration

Convener: U. Wollschläger, U. Heinrich, E. Eberhardt

Keynote Speaker: Marta Dondini (University of Aberdeen), Niels Batjes (ISRIC, Wageningen)

Soil models, especially those operating at larger scales, require a large amount of information from different sources. Compiling this information for modeling purposes often is the most tedious task within the workflow. Consequently, the soil modeling community calls for “standardized and harmonized data” for a more efficient data-model integration. At the same time, there are several national and international initiatives operating soil and related data repositories for different purposes, most of them aiming to make the data available in a standardized and harmonized form. These initiatives often look for use cases identifying the key data needs and requirements of the user community.

This session aims to bring together scientists from both, the data and the modeling communities to inform each other about the existing opportunities and demands and to discuss possibilities to establish workflows for an efficient data-model integration. We welcome presentations that i) present existing data bases and initiatives, ii) explain existing efforts for data collection, standardization and harmonization within their field of research or standardization bodies, iii) show opportunities for interlinkage of different data bases, like linked open data, iv) show existing demand from the modeler’s perspective (potential use cases) and v) present examples for a successful data-model integration.

Please note the following additional information concerning data protection:

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