Soil health is fundamental to a prosperous and sustainable environment in the sustainable agriculture and green economy era. InBestSoil, an innovative project funded by the European Union through the Horizon Europe program, aims to transform the perception of soil health by developing an economic evaluation system integrated into business models. Today, we explore innovations and best practices in soil health, highlighting their importance for a healthy environment and sustainable agriculture.

The importance of soil health

Soil is the basis of agricultural production and is essential in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. A healthy soil contributes to:

  • Biodiversity – provides a habitat for beneficial microorganisms and insects crucial to nutrient cycling;
  • Water management – healthy soils have a greater capacity to retain and filter water, thus preventing erosion and desertification;
  • Reducing climate change effects – sequestering carbon in the soil helps reduce greenhouse gases.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), effective soil management can increase global agricultural production by up to 58%.

Innovations in soil health

1. Soil Monitoring Technologies

Modern technologies allow continuous and detailed monitoring of soil parameters, while soil sensors measure moisture, pH, and nutrient levels in real-time, providing essential information for optimal crop management.

Satellite imagery and drones provide accurate data on soil and crop conditions, identifying problems such as nutrient deficiencies or areas affected by erosion.

Projects such as IoF2020 (Internet of Food and Farm 2020) use these technologies to provide farmers with real-time information, optimising farming practices.

2. Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture involves using data to tailor agricultural inputs to the specific needs of soil and crops:

  • GPS and GIS systems – enable accurate mapping of fields and precise application of resources;
  • Big data-based soil analytics – improve crop rotation and resource management decisions.

Studies show that precision agriculture can reduce production costs by up to 30% and increase yields by up to 25%.

3. Biotechnology in Agriculture

Biotechnology brings innovative solutions to improve soil health:

  • Beneficial microorganisms – use of bacteria and fungi that enhance nutrient absorption and fight pathogens;
  • Transgenic crops – plants genetically modified to resist diseases and pests can reduce the need for pesticides, thus keeping the soil healthy.

Best practices in soil health management

1. Crop rotation

Crop rotation on the same land helps prevent soil depletion and control diseases and pests:

  • Cover crops: Nitrogen-fixing legumes enrich the soil and improve its structure, reducing the need for chemical fertilisers.

2. Composting and organic fertilisers

The use of compost and organic fertilisers helps to maintain soil fertility and improve the organic content. For example, crop residues and manure provide essential nutrients and stimulate microbial activity in the soil, thus improving its structure and fertility.

3. Conservative Agriculture

Conservation agriculture minimises tillage by keeping residues of previous crops on the surface to protect the soil from erosion and improve water retention. No-till farming reduces soil erosion and conserves moisture, contributing to better soil structure and fertility in the long term.

The impact of innovations on the economy and the environment

Implementing innovations and best practices in soil management not only improves soil health but also brings significant economic and ecological benefits:

  • Increased productivity: Healthy and well-managed soils increase crop yields, ensuring higher and more sustainable agricultural production;
  • Cost reduction: Advanced technologies and efficient practices reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides, thereby lowering farmers’ costs;
  • Environmental protection: Healthy soils help reduce erosion, improve water quality, and sequester carbon, positively impacting the environment.

The innovations and practices described contribute significantly to maintaining and improving soil health, a crucial aspect of agricultural sustainability and environmental protection. InBestSoil is committed to promoting and implementing these technologies and practices through an integrated economic evaluation system, aiming to create sustainable business models that benefit farmers and the ecosystem.

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