Focus areas

Last changed: 08 November 2021
Barley seeds, photo.

The Initiative for soil science for agricultural productivity and climate proofing works within a European partnership. It is based on SLU´s excellence in soil science and soil management research especially in areas described below.

Climate change and carbon sequestration

The research is focused on the exchange of greenhouse gases between ecosystem and atmosphere, especially the effect of management methods on the ecosystem’s carbon balance. It ranges from theoretical and empirical research to the development and application of models. SLUs research informs the Swedish national reporting on C emissions and sequestration to the UNFCC for forest and agricultural soils.

Nutrient management

The research is based on an interaction between basic research in geochemistry and applied research in soil fertility, nutrient management and precision agriculture. The basic research is directed towards the understanding of soil chemical processes and the significance of these processes for the bioavailability of nutrients and potentially toxic elements and mechanisms controlling soil fertility over time.

The more applied research concerns availability of plant nutrients to crops, especially development of tools for sustainable resource management. This is done with respect to both production and the environment. Current research is s developed in strong partnership with farmers, private sector and governmental agencies to pilot best practices on farms and landscapes and to contribute development of policies both in Sweden and in an international context.

Soil organisms

Soil organisms has a central in regulating ecosystem carbon storage and nutrient cycling. A greater understanding of how soil microbial ecology regulate soil organic carbon content and contributes to carbon exchange between the land and atmosphere is needed to manage microbial contributions towards sustainable agriculture and minimized climate impact. The focus in the program is on the link between organic matter transformations, microbial communities and environmental drivers.

Soil physics

Soil physics, especially soil structure as a key factor in soil health and delivery of ecosystem services: Soil quality is strongly determined by soil structure, which is defined as the spatial arrangement and stability of the soil solids and pore space. Soil structure affects key soil processes including water and air movement, microbial activity, carbon and nutrient cycling, root growth, and water and nutrient uptake by plants.

A loss or deterioration of soil structure is therefore implicated in almost all forms of land degradation, including depletion of soil organic matter and nutrients, compaction and erosion. A major focus is to elucidate how biophysical processes and human activities affect soil structure and its dynamics but also to develop strategies for sustainable soil management under climate and land use change.

Water management

Water management is one of the biggest challenges in agriculture, especially in a current and future climatic variability and change. The overall objective of the research is to develop and evaluate methods for optimised utilisation and management of water in crop production form field to landscape. In focus are both secured food production and enhanced soil and water environment including reduction of soil erosion, waterborne transport of plant nutrients, pesticides and other substances from agricultural land. 

The research is based on an interaction between basic and applied research and includes both empirical work and modelling and form the basis for development of sustainable strategies for climate resilience in agriculture, in Sweden and in international partnerships. Collaboration with society, especially within the framework of SLUs environmental assessment programs for soil and water is an important policy influencing activity.

Environmental monitoring and assessment

SLU has twelve Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (EMA) programs. They are designed to meet society's need for decision support and are linked to Sweden's national environmental objectives and international environmental cooperation.

The following programs are within soil science and soil management or related areas: climate, agricultural landscapes, eutrophication, a non-toxic environment, lakes and watercourses, biodiversity. Each of these programs are longitudinal studies with databases that are available to the program.

Engaging with partners

Engaging with partners for scaling and uptake of research: SLU has external collaboration specialists (Senior lecturers) combine proficiency in research with extension activities in their subject areas. The collaboration specialist’s facilitates the interaction between academia and society e.g. with the agriculture sector and governmental agencies.

Within soil science and related areas there are collaborations specialist in soil and environment (especially nutrient management), soil physics and water management, precision agriculture, plant production, and landscape planning.

Contact, 018-671561