Soil Science for Sustainable Multifunctional Land Use

Senast ändrad: 19 maj 2016

The overall goal of the proposal is to stimulate research and research training activities all linked to the global theme: Soil Science for Sustainable, Multifunctional Land Use.

The programme focuses on the identification of crucial knowledge gaps, promising research ideas, and relevant societal problems related to soil functioning and processes. The scope ranges from basic to applied research with strong links to different sectors of society. 

The aims with the program Sustainable Multifunctional Land Use:

  • Strengthening and extending co-operation and networks across SLU faculties and national borders including expertise in agricultural, forest, and aquatic systems.
  • Establishing and promotion of the role of SLU as a leader in research on production and the environmental impacts of agricultural and forestry land use in Sweden and in international research communities.
  • Consolidating the role of the Department of Soil and Environment as a strong partner for research grant applications nationally and internationally.
  • Improving scientific evidence and knowledge of balancing food, wood and biofuel production against the climate change mitigation potential of different land use within Europe.
  • Exchanging scientific evidence and knowledge of land use impacts from agriculture and forestry on the aquatic environment including the impact of climate change on land use.
  • Gaining an improved understanding of management methods and their potential to increase yields with more efficient use of resources and less environmental impact under different climatic and economic settings.

Previous activities

The three-year programme launched a workshop on December 11, 2014, in Uppsala where the most relevant and promising topics for review articles and research proposals were identified and discussed. Keynote speaker presentations from the workshop can be accessed: Prof. Andy Whitmore (Rothamstead Ressearch, UK), Prof. Katarina Hedlund (Lund University, SWE), Prof. Christoph Humborg (Stockholm University, SWE). Read more below.

Time plan

2014 Kick-off
2015 Review article within each theme
2016 Research applications within each theme
2017 Symposium

The activities within the program cover a range of areas and scales within soil science focusing on three themes:

1. Sustainable intensification of agricultural production

Three main challenges lie ahead in feeding the world:

  1. to match the growing world demand for food
  2. to do this in an environmentally and socially sustainable way
  3. to ensure food security for the world’s poorest people.

As only marginal expansion of arable land is possible in most countries and cultivation of virgin land often results in negative environmental impacts such as land degradation, increased emissions of greenhouse gases, and loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat, sustainable intensification of crop production on existing land seems to be the most realistic way forward.

Intensification not only relates to increased yields but also to more efficient use of natural resources and labour, less environmental pollution and improved ecosystem services. Closing yield gaps, especially in low productivity regions is important and new management practices can greatly increase efficiency of inputs, reduce emissions and optimise use of natural resources far beyond today’s performance in many parts of the world. In high productivity areas, one important component towards optimised use of available resources is the concept of precision agriculture; combining sensors, information systems, and enhanced machinery to account for variability within agricultural systems. Proximal and remote sensors for monitoring and mapping crop and soil variation are rapidly developing research areas.

The overall scientific objective of this theme is to advance the knowledge of production systems and management practices that can increase efficiency of inputs, reduce emissions and optimise use of natural resources and greatly increase crop production above today’s yield levels. Both a global perspective as well as regional and national perspectives will be applied. 

2. Addressing multiple challenges; securing food, feed and biofuel production

- while mitigating climate change through optimal choice of land use and management practices

Agricultural and forest production can cause substantial emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG) but these also hold a great potential for reducing GHG through sequestering of carbon. Sweden and other Nordic countries are experiencing changes in agricultural land use, diverting it into forest or biofuel production.

However, forest land may also be transformed into farm land or pasture. At the same time, food production in Nordic countries may become increasingly more important in the future due to global soil degradation and climate changes that cause increased heat stress and droughts reducing crop yields in other regions of the world. However, the full potential for site adapted production has yet to be analysed and there is large uncertainty in the crop yield predictions for climate change scenarios as many models don’t incorporate heat stress. 

Optimal land use in Sweden/Europe/and globally must be adapted to site conditions and based on the potential to produce food, feed, fuel and fibre along with the provision of a variety of ecosystem services. The effect of land use change (LUC) on GHG-emissions and soil C sequestration has been identified as a large source of uncertainty in national climate reporting; LUC leads to large changes in GHG- emissions and C sequestration with the size of the areas involved not accurately known. In addition, trade-offs associated with maximising productivity with respect to food, feed, biofuel and fibre and reduction of GHG-emissions is a great challenge.

The overall scientific objective of this theme is to analyse and identify optimal land-use and management options with regard to production and GHG emissions. We wish to address these topics together with our colleagues and form an international consortium in climate reporting and climate change assessments. 

3. Future strategies to minimize negative impacts on water quality for various land use

One of the most significant problems related to land-use driven negative impacts on the aquatic environment (N, P and sediment loads, chemical pollution, water abstraction) that has not been sufficiently addressed is how to get the right mitigation measures in the right place in the landscape to maximise the environmental effect of economic resources.

Where agriculture and forestry are the primary sources of nutrient loads it is difficult to identify and manage these sources due to their diffuse nature and dependence on many site and landscape specific characteristics. In addition, the effect of many land-based measures to reduce transport is uncertain. Due to these knowledge gaps, neither regulatory authorities nor catchment program managers and landowners are equipped with adequate decision support systems to identify critical areas and for planning of cost efficient land use and measures to reduce the risk of eutrophication.

Programs of management on a catchment level which allow for flexible targeting of measures that address site specific characteristics of the landscape will be able to achieve the most cost efficient results. Furthermore, for long-term efficiency these measures should be evaluated in the light of climate change.

The overall scientific objective of the proposed theme is to develop knowledge and decision support systems for identifying, in both economic and environmental terms, the most optimal site-specific land-use and management options at the catchment scale including both agricultural and forest production.

Workshop 11th December 2014 - Sustainable Multifunctional Land Use

This workshop marks the start of a three-year programme at the Department of Soil and Environment, SLU, to promote research and (inter-)national cooperation in Soil Science for Sustainable Multifunctional Land Use. The aim of the workshop is to identify the most relevant and promising topics for review articles and research proposals and to agree on a plan for the coming two years.


Kick-off 11th December 2014 research programme Sustainable Multifunctional Land Use

Programme at Mässen, Eklundshof, Uppsala, Sweden



Registration, coffee/tea
Pia Edfelt 



Welcome and introduction, aims and framework of programme ‘Sustainable Multifunctional Land Use Öppnas i nytt fönster
Håkan Marstorp, Head of Dept. of Soil & Environment, SLU; Annemieke Gärdenäs FGI- coordinator, SLU. 
9.30-12.00 Plenary session Knowledge gaps in themes I, II and III


Sustainable intensification of agricultural production Öppnas i nytt fönster 
 Prof. Andy Whitmore Öppnas i nytt fönster, Rothamstead Research, UK

 Coffee break - Leg stretching 



Securing food, feed and fiber production while mitigating climate change through optimal   choice of land use and management practices  Öppnas i nytt fönster
 Prof. Katarina Hedlund Öppnas i nytt fönster, Lund University, Sweden.



Strategies to minimize negative impacts on water quality for various land use and land use   changes
Prof. Christoph Humborg Öppnas i nytt fönster, Stockholm University, Sweden.

Introduction to afternoon paralell discussions




 Three parallel discussion sessions:

Sustainable intensification of agricultural production
Chairs Bo Stenberg, Holger Kirchman


Securing food, feed and biofuel production while mitigating climate change through optimal   choice of land use and management practices
Chairs Annemieke Gärdenäs, Mats Olsson


Future strategies to minimize negative impacts on water quality for various land use
Chairs  Helena Aronson, Karin Blombäck 





Presentation of outcome of group discussions (15 minutes presentation and 10 minutes   discussion per theme).

Panel of external guests
Representatives of public and private sectors Ingrid Rydberg, Swedish   Environmental Protection Agency, C.G. Pettersson, Lantmännen Research Foundation, Lars   Friberg Swedish Energy Agency plus keynote speakers Prof Andy Whitmore, Prof Katarina Hedlund   and Prof Christoph Humborg,

Moderator Håkan Marstorp/Annemieke Gärdenäs



Concluding session conclusions from kick-off for planning 2015 and   2016
Annemieke Gärdenäs

Target group: All researchers and Phd-students at the Department of Soil and Environment, SLU.

Time: 8:30 - 15:30, 11th December 2014

Place: Eklundshof, Uppsala, Sweden

Hosts: Annemieke Gärdenäs (FGI-programme and theme coordinator), Håkan Marstorp (Head of department of Soil and environment), Helena Aronsson (theme coordinator), Bo Stenberg (theme coordinator) and Martin Rappe George.


Bo Stenberg

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