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soil

The Agricultural sector is facing environmental challenges related to emission of greenhouse gases, nutrient loss to surface water and decrease of organic matter.

Intensive farming poses soil under threat compromising the ability of soils to maintain their functionality and thus provide ecosystem services such as food production, carbon storage, water depuration and infiltration and water holding capacity.

The use of organic amendments such as manure and compost represents an opportunity to increase organic matter, reduce carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) emissions and enhance pesticide degradation. Mounting evidence in research demonstrates the key role of the soil microbiome in the stabilization of organic matter and the nutrient cycle. Still, the effect of organic amendments on soil microorganisms and thus on the C and N cycle is not yet well understood.

This knowledge gap hampers the development of effective solutions to implement sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

Thereof, the current research line in the Wetsus Soil Theme aims to develop nature-based solutions  to enhance organic matter in soil, reduce C and N emission and promote regenerative agriculture practices.

Main focus is on testing the effect of different organic amendments on the soil microbial community and soil properties with the aim of engineering soil amendments to improve soil structure, preserving its fertility and resilience to drought.

Recent insights within the Wetsus soil theme demonstrate that organic amendments can influence microbial composition and diversity as well as soil structure. This opens opportunities to develop amendments based on agricultural residues that are able to stimulate and promote specific functions driven by the soil microbiome. Moreover, a promising correlation was found between amendments application, extra polymeric substances (EPS) produced by microbes and soil structure.

Four new projects started in 2022 will strengthen and build further on current research. Three projects focus on the development, modification and assessment of existing nature-based solutions to enhance soil functionality. The forth project will focus on the effect of different soil management practices on microbial community and its role in N emission and C-uptake.

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