Soil Degradation: Theory, Evidence and Protection Activities

Serious problems of land degradation and failing soil fertility are rapidly declining production levels in large parts of the world. The problem is further expanded by farmers seeking maximal yields and attempting to offset poor soil and crop management by excessive use of fertilizers or pesticides, which results in contamination of soil and agricultural products. The capacity of soil to counteract various anthropogenic loads is limited and eventually is not capable of resisting the increased physical, chemical and biochemical loads and thus loses part of its valuable functions (e.g. productivity, biological filter, neutralizer of harmful compounds). The aim of this seminar was to come up with ideas and provide answers to some of the urgent questions - how to protect the soil from human-induced degradation and to achieve sustainable management in compliance with the soil protection regulations. The fact that the solution to the above-mentioned problems is highly relevant and pressing has been endorsed in the resolution of the United Nations – the year 2015 has been declared as the International Year of Soils.

The seminar had 37 participants from Norway, Lithuania, Findland, Sweden, Poland, Latvia. Germany and Estonia from universities, research institutes and from other organisations (including farmers' organisations and ministries).The seminar consisted from plenary, oral and poster sessions. The 35 presentations gave a broad view on protection from soil degradation and achieving the sustainable soil management. Presentations were made on soil acidification management, soil erosion problems, importance of soil organic matter and its sequestration possibilities, soil structure problems and management of biological processes in soil. Overall, the presentations reported research activities and results of high scientific quality, and almost all presentations were followed by good and constructive discussions among the participants.

Plenary session was introduced by a keynote lectures: 1) Implementation of practical measures to prevent soil erosion and nutrient runoff from agricultural areas, by Svein Skøien, president of the NJF, Norway; 2) Constraints of soil carbon sequestration in Northern European croplands by professor Kristiina Regina, Natural Resources Institute, Finland; 3) Changes of enzymatic activities and microbial communities in soil under long-term maize monoculture and crop rotation, bydr. Anna Gałązka, Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation, Poland; and 4) The problem of soil degradation concept, by dr. Jonas Volungevičius, Vilnius University, Lithuania.

On the excursion on 24-25th of September we visited the unique long – term liming, fertilization, erosion and lysimetric experiments of Vėžaičiai branch of LRCAF, which develops the sustainable and environment-friendly agricultural science on acid and eroded soils, analyzes and controlles of soil acidification and erosion process, measures sustained soil fertility and ecological stability, developes agricultural and energy crops innovative cultivation technologies for 80 years. After the excursion of field experiments was expedition, which was dedicated to International Year of Soil - 2015 and organized by Lithuanian Soil Science Society. The aim of this expedition was to evaluate the peculiarities of Albeluvisols and to analyze modifications of WRB 2014 in relevance to Lithuania. During the expedition the 3 types of Albeluvisols were presented (2 types of afforested landscapes and 1 agrarian landscape).

Following the seminar, a Special Issue of Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, section B, Plant and Soil or Zemdirbyste – Agriculture, will be published with selected papers from the seminar presentations.

Organizing committee:

  • Danutė Karčauskienė, LRCAF, Lithuania (coordinator of the local organising team);

  • Linas Stabingis, ASU, Lithuania;

  • Žydrė Kadžiulienė, LRCAF, Lithuania;

  • Dalia Ambrazaitienė, KU, Lithuania;

  • Rimantas Vaisvalavičius, ASU, Lithuania;

  • Kęstutis Armolaitis, LRCAF, Lithuania;

  • Regina Repšienė, LRCAF, Lithuania;

  • Virginijus Feiza, LRCAF, Lithuania.