Interactive Soil Quality Assessment in Europe and China for Agricultural Productivity and Environmental Resilience (iSQAPER)

a maize field in Vitré/France (T. Caspari)
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Knowledge regarding the complex interplay between agricultural land use and management and soil quality and function is fragmented and incomplete, in particular with regard to underlying principles and regulating mechanisms.

The EU-funded Horizon 2020 project iSQAPER has been initiated to tackle this challenge. The main aim of iSQAPER is to develop an interactive soil quality assessment app (SQAPP) for agricultural land users that integrates newly derived process understanding and accounts for the impact of agricultural land use and management on soil properties and functions, and related ecosystem services. For this purpose, >30 long-term experimental field trials in the EU and China have been analyzed to derive regulating principles for integration in SQAPP. SQAPP has been developed using a multi-actor approach aiming at facilitating social innovation and providing options to land users for cost-effective agricultural management activities to enhance soil quality and crop productivity. SQAPP has been tested extensively in 14 dedicated Case Study Sites in the EU and China covering a wide spectrum of farming systems and pedo-climatic zones, and rolled-out across the continents thereafter. Within the Case Study sites, a range of alternative agricultural practices has been selected, implemented, and evaluated with regard to effects on improving soil quality and crop productivity.

Proven practices have been evaluated for their potential applicability at EU and China levels, and to assess the related soil environmental footprint under current and future agricultural trends and various agricultural policy scenarios. How the soil quality tool could be utilized for different policy purposes, e.g. in cross-compliance and agro-environmental measures, has also been investigated and demonstrated. A comprehensive dissemination and communication strategy, including a web-based information portal, has been developed to ensure that project results are available to a variety of stakeholders at the right time and in appropriate formats to enhance soil quality and productivity in the EU and China.

SQAPP is the freely available global access to soil maps and data at any location, for any user; assesses the most probable threats to soil quality with explicit links between soil quality status and agricultural management; provides target advice on how to improve soil quality status; and has the capacity for users to interact with the databases, uploading local data to refine the soil quality analysis and recommendations; SQAPP is in multiple (14) languages.

ISRIC is a core partner for the development of the SQAPP and was involved in various Work Packages as well.

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iSQAPER delegates during the 2nd plenary meeting in Balatongyörök/Hungary (June 2016)