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Organic Manure and Crop Organic Carbon Returns - Effects on Soil Quality (Soil-QC) - SP0530

Description
The overall objective of the project is to provide an improved understanding of the processes and linkages through which organic carbon additions influence soil bio-physical and physico-chemical properties. Soil organic carbon (SOC) levels and turnover rates are intimately linked to the soil properties that are important in the maintenance of soil quality and fertility, and sustainable crop production. However, it has been difficult to distinguish the various processes and linkages through which SOC effects soil quality and fertility, associated crop productivity and environmental impacts. Moreover, many of the claimed benefits of organic carbon (OC) additions are largely based on anecdotal evidence. Building upon the previous research conducted in Defra projects SP0501 and SP0504, which evaluated the effects of `medium-term farm manure and fertiliser nitrogen (N) additions on soil quality and fertility” and the unique experimental resource provided by the network of seven sites, this project will seek to develop an improved understanding of the processes and linkages through which OC additions influence soil quality and fertility, and sustainable crop production. Additionally, at the four farm manure sites green waste compost and paper waste additions will be introduced as new treatments. An important aspect of the study will be to assess how soil properties will change over time, both in the short and long-term, which will be achieved through a combination of field measurements and modeling.

The maintenance and improvement of soil quality is a key objective for Defra policies on the sustainable use and protection of soils (e.g. First Soil Action Plan for England). Moreover, the importance of maintaining and indeed replenishing soil organic matter levels is a central component of many Defra & EU policies (e.g. EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection). This project will provide Defra with an improved understanding of the effects of OC additions, via repeated organic manure (farm manure, compost and paper waste) and fertiliser N additions, on soil quality and function. This will help to ensure that policy decisions are based on sound scientific data and do not compromise the long-term sustainability of UK soils.
Objective
The overall objective of the project is to provide an improved understanding of the processes and linkages through which organic carbon additions influence soil bio-physical and physico-chemical properties.

More specifically, the objectives of the project are:

1. To quantify the effects of repeated OC additions on soil bio-physical and physico-chemical properties.
2. To quantify the effects of recent (within 2 years) and historic (older than 2 years) OC inputs on soil bio-physical and physico-chemical properties.
3. To assess relationships between the rate and substrate quality of OC inputs and measured changes in soil properties and processes.
4. To determine the effects of a range of OC inputs on crop yields and quality and farm economics.
5. To use the data generated to assess the rate of change in soil properties and evaluate the effect of different management scenarios through the modelling of C and N turnover.
6. To assess the linkages and interactions through which OC additions effect soil quality and fertility, associated crop productivity and environmental impacts.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Organic manure and crop organic carbon returns - effects on soil quality: Soil-QC   (972k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2010

Cost: £1,086,572
Contractor / Funded Organisations
ADAS UK Ltd.
Keywords
Agricultural Land              
Composting              
Environmental monitoring              
Environmental Protection              
Indicators              
Land              
Manures              
Organic Carbon              
Soil