PPP Better Soil Management

Improving our knowledge on soil and soil processes

A sustainable and healthy soil increases production and production stability, reduces unwanted emissions to the environment, and promotes a range of social soil services. The Public Private Partnership (PPP) ‘Beter Bodembeheer’ (translation: ‘Better Soil Management’) is a research program focused on soil quality and soil management, under which various (long-term) projects take place. Through collaborations between, among others, chain parties, governments, and research institutes, knowledge is collected and developed in the PPP Better Soil Management to achieve more sustainable and healthier soils. The Louis Bolk Institute is responsible for the execution of the research project together with the WUR.

The importance of soil quality

The soil forms the basis of practically all agricultural and horticultural products. Soil quality is therefore a crucial part of food security. Soil quality can also have a major impact on climate, biodiversity and water management, among other things. The many ecological, biological and climatic processes that rely on healthy soil make soil quality and soil management topics of broad social importance.

Soil philosophy and research approach

The PPP Better Soil Management focuses mainly on the following themes: organic matter, fertiliser quality, fertilisation, soil-plant interactions, tillage, compaction of the subsoil, and belowground and aboveground interactions. The soil is a complex system, and researching these themes requires an integrated approach. In our methodology, we therefore take the interaction of soil chemical, soil physical and soil biological properties into account.

Changes in soil properties can be slow but steady. To observe such changes, it is necessary to set up long-term experiments and conduct long-term research. This is possible through the PPP. With a long history of research into sustainable agriculture, we have the experience and expertise to set up and conduct both small-scale and large-scale experiments.

Integral effects of soil measures and their applicability

The Louis Bolk Institute conducts integral analyses of the effects of soil measures on soil functions such as primary production, water regulation and purification, carbon storage, biodiversity, and nutrient cycles. We distinguish between social and functional goals. In doing so, we also take applicability, costs and benefits, and effects on yield stability into account. We are furthermore developing a step-by-step plan for selecting measures and systems that suit a certain set of desired soil functions and soil quality. Knowledge gaps are summarised in a knowledge and innovation agenda.

Organic matter & fertilisation

Simultaneous management of organic matter and nitrogen/phosphate fertilisation is inherent to the success of circular agriculture. System experiments offer a unique opportunity to outline the synchronous processes of nutrient retention, utilisation, and balances of nitrogen and phosphate. The results of the system experiments are explored in depth in this study, and translated into practical advice. 

Research questions are: What nitrogen and phosphate utilisation rate can be realised by crops in different systems? What can be learned from this in practice, and what does this mean for the possibilities of closing nutrient cycles? There is furthermore a question of what the effects of measures to capture carbon mean for various soil functions and for concrete agricultural practice.

Evaluation of carbon sequestration measures

In another project, we used data from well-known, relevant, and professional long-term experiments in arable and livestock farming in the Netherlands to evaluate measures for their potential to sequester carbon in the soil. This contributes to the government's target of achieving a net reduction of 0.5 Mton CO2 per year by 2030 through smarter land use. Read more about this in this carbon sequestration.

Project partners

The Louis Bolk Institute, together with Wageningen University & Research (WUR), carries out the research program of the PPP Beter Bodembeheer. In addition, a large consortium of project partners is involved, including partners from the business community (such as BO Akkerbouw), partners from the government (such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality), and research partners (such as the Netherlands Institute of Ecology),

Logo Beter Bodembeheer

Read more about this project on the PPP Better Soil Management website.