Assessing the role of soils when developing sustainable agricultural production systems focused on achieving the un‐sdgs and the eu green deal

Johan Bouma*, Teresa Pinto‐correia, Cees Veerman

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The general concept of sustainable development has been specified in terms of goals, targets, and indicators by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015, followed by the Green Deal of the European Union in 2019. The focus on targets and indicators does, however, not address the issue as to how these goals can be achieved for land‐related SDGs in the real world, and attention in this paper is therefore focused on how land management can contribute to providing ecosystem services in line with the aims of the SDGs and the Green Deal. Agricultural production systems should at least produce healthy food (SDG2 and 3), protect ground‐ and surface water quality (SDG6), mitigate climate change (SDG13), avoid soil degradation, and support biodiversity (SDG15). The corresponding ecosystem services are discussed with particular emphasis on the role of soils, which are characterized in terms of soil health, defined as: contributing to ecosystem services in line with the SDGs and the Green Deal. Appropriate management, as developed and proposed by researchers working jointly with farmers in living labs, can only be realized when it is part of sound long‐term business plans, supported by independent advice that is focused on farmersʹ concerns based on the requirements for adaptive management. The research effort in living labs, addressing “wicked” problems, needs to be judged differently from classical linear research. As the development of successful ecosystem services requires an interdisciplinary research effort based on a systems analysis, SDG‐oriented soil research in the future should be focused on: (i) presenting suitable data to the interdisciplinary effort beyond standard data to be found in existing databases; (ii) using soil types as “carriers of information” to allow extrapolation of results; (iii) providing data with a comparable degree of detail when analyzing the various ecosystem services, and (iv) revisit past experiences in soil survey and soil fertility research when contact with farmers was intense, as is again needed in future to realize ecosystem services in line with the SDGs and the Green Deal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Number of pages16
JournalSoil Systems
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2021

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