Soil and Fertilization

Soil and Fertilization


Soil ecology plays a key role in natural soil functions. The biological processes in soil ecosystems e.g. integrate plant residues into the soil, shred them, break them down and release fixed nutrients as minerals for plant growth. Soil organisms create favourable physical conditions in the soil.

In general, soil treatments effect the natural processes that the soil biodiversity delivers negatively. For example, organisms which are sensitive to pH will be affected by the addition of lime; the bacterial: fungal ratio will be affected by the addition of fertilizers and manures which alter the C:N ratio as will the effects of tillage. Oxygen, UV radiation and heat will come in contact with the soil, particularly turning the soil by ploughing and resulting furrows lead to severe edge effects for life in the soils. Humification processes, which take place under exclusion of oxygen, will be hindered, the natural soil pore system is disrupted.

Furthermore, agricultural activities affect directly and to a great extent organism, which help with:

  • organic matter decomposition and soil aggregation;
  • breakdown of toxic compounds both metabolic by-products of organisms and agrochemicals;
  • inorganic transformations that make available nitrates, sulphates, and phosphates as well as essential elements such as iron and manganese;
  • nitrogen fixation into forms usable by higher plants

Further Reading



The Soil Atlas of Europe illustrates the conditions of European soil as well as their affectedness from soil erosion, the decline of organic matter, soil sealing by housing and infrastructure, etc.

The Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas raises awareness of the role of soil organisms in sustaining life on our planet, and presents the latest research on soil biodiversity.

The report published by ISRIC presents the results of the mapping of the current state of degradation and conservation in the Case Study Sites of the RECARE Project (2016).

The Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management (2016) published by FAO provide technical and policy recommendations on how sustainable soil management can be achieved.

The importance of soil organic matter (2005) by FAO recognizes the central role of organic matter in improving soil productivity and outlines promising technologies for improved organic matter management for productive and sustainable crop production in the tropics.

Building Soils for Better Crops (2010)” by SARE is a practical guide to ecological soil management and provides step-by-step information on soil-improving practices. 
The paper “Soil Health and Carbon Management. Food and Energy Security (2016)” by Lal Rattan provides definitions and information on soil quality and soil health.

McDaniel, Tiermann and Grandy conducted a meta‐analysis of 122 studies to examine crop rotation effects on total soil C and N concentrations, and the faster cycling microbial biomass C and N pools.

The “Conservation tillage for increased crop production” by FAO gives an overview on Conservation tillage and conventional tillage systems.


The article “Impact of Fertilizing Pattern on the Biodiversity of a Weed Community and Wheat Growth” deals with an appropriate fertilization and its benefits on crops as well as farmland weeds.


The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) lists different Tillage Type Definitions.
The Cover Crop Chart by the USDA provides information on growth cycle, relative water use, plant architecture, seeding depth, forage quality, pollination characteristics, and nutrient cycling of almost 66 crop species.

The website of the European Comission gives a definition of soil and describes the global challenge and impacts of soil degradation as well as information on related EU strategies.

The European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC) is the thematic centre for soil related data in Europe. It serves as a reference point for relevant soil data and information at European level.

The webpage on Microlevel by FAO describes the steps to a good evaluation of  nutrient balance.

Globalagriculture gives an overview about facts and figures on different topics, such as soil fertility and erosion, and links to actual publications.

The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative intents to develop a platform for promoting the translation of expert knowledge on soil biodiversity into environmental policy and sustainable land management.

ISRIC analyzes and evaluates the impact of land and soil management on soil biodiversity.

The webpage on Nutrient balance by OECD provides charts that help understand the general situation and processes available for nutrient balance management.

WOCAT is a global network on Sustainable Land Management (SLM) that promotes the documentation, sharing and use of knowledge to support adaptation, innovation and decision-making in SLM.

SOIL4WINE is aimed at improving soil management in the agriculture sector and at defining tools and methodologies aimed to support soil’s functions and ecosystem services.

The main goal of the SelPiBioLife project is to demonstrate the positive effects of an innovative silvicultural treatment on black pine forests.

The aim of RECARE is to develop effective prevention, remediation and restoration measures for soils using an innovative trans-disciplinary approach, covering a range of soil threats across Europe.