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Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering >> 2020, Volume 7, Issue 3 doi: 10.15302/J-FASE-2020337

Using a systems modeling approach to improve soil management and soil quality

CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia

Received: 2020-05-14 Accepted: 2020-06-02 Available online: 2020-06-02

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Soils provide the structural support, water and nutrients for plants in nature and are considered to be the foundation of agriculture production. Improving soil quality and soil health has been advocated as the goal of soil management toward sustainable agricultural intensification. There have been renewed efforts to define and quantify soil quality and soil health but establishing a consensus on the key indicators remains difficult. It is argued that such difficulties are due to the former ways of thinking in soil management which largely focus on soil properties alone. A systems approach that treats soils as a key component of agricultural production systems is promoted. It is argued that soil quality must be quantified in terms of crop productivity and impacts on ecosystems services that are also strongly driven by climate and management interventions. A systems modeling approach captures the interactions among climate, soil, crops and management, and their impacts on system performance, thus helping to quantify the value and quality of soils. Here, three examples are presented to demonstrate this. In this systems context, soil management must be an integral part of systems management practices that also include managing the crops and cropping systems under specific climatic conditions, with cognizance of future climate change.

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