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Topics / Sessions

1. Soil health assessment

Soil quality is essential for efficient crop production and environmental health because it plays many key roles for the ecosystem. This session is based on an interdisciplinary approach involving soil scientists to characterize the dynamic and living soil–water–plant–atmosphere system. Fundamental soil properties include physical (texture, structure, available water holding capacity, water infiltration rate, bulk density, soil aggregate stability, effective rooting depth), chemical (pH, cation exchange capacity, intensity and capacity of plant available nutrients, electrical conductance and the concentration of soluble salts), and biological (soil organic carbon concentration and stock, microbial biomass carbon, activity and species diversity of micro and macro flora and fauna).

2. Soil management

Soil management is an integral part of land management and focuses on differences in soil types and soil properties in order to define specific interventions that are aimed to enhance the soil quality and fertility. Specific soil management practices are needed to protect and conserve the soil resources. There are also specific interventions to increase soil carbon content to mitigate climate change. Reversing the degradation of soil, water and biological resources and enhancing crop and livestock production through appropriate land use and soil management practices are essential elements for achieving food and livelihood security. There are various farming system approaches which differ in productivity and environmental impacts. Conservation agriculture, as a promising future direction, has three min practices: minimising soil disturbance, maintaining permanent soil coverage and diversifying crops. Conservation tillage is a suitable approach that leaves the previous year’s crop residues on fields and reduces soil erosion and runoff or brings also other benefits such as carbon sequestration. Cover crops play an important role in this system as well.

3. Sustainable crop production adopted to climate change

Sustainable intensification of crop production is defined as the integration of biological and ecological processes into crop production, optimising the use of non-renewable inputs and improving farmers' knowledge, and is particularly confronted with the threats posed by climate change. The implementation of climate-resilient crop production systems intersects with a range of interventions already being implemented in the crop production sub-sector towards the goal of healthy agro-ecological systems.

These include:

Increasing genetic diversity at farm level to improve resilience. Farmers have good potential to adapt crop management practices to changing climatic conditions.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an agricultural system that deals with the effective protection against diseases, pests and weeds, which ensures a stable yield and production of quality agricultural products, while at the same time reducing the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment. IPM includes preventive tools (crop rotation, soil tillage and seedbed preparation, nutrient management and fertilisation, choice of suitable varieties), monitoring and forecast of harmful organisms and direct methods (biological, mechanical and chemical) based on the determination of thresholds that could cause economic damage.

4. Precision agriculture

Precision agriculture (PA) or precision farming, is a modern farming management concept using digital technology to monitor and optimise agricultural production processes. Instead of applying the same amount of fertilisers over an entire agricultural field, PA l measure differences in the field conditions and adjust fertilisation or harvesting strategy accordingly. PA methods promise to increase the quantity and quality of agricultural production while using fewer inputs (water, energy, fertilisers, pesticides, etc.). The aim is to save costs, reduce the environmental impact and produce better food quality.