There is a growing demand worldwide for food, while at the same time agriculture is being threatened by drought, flooding and soil degradation. Soil improvement can reduce these effects. By improving soils (increased porosity and organic matter), the soil becomes more capable to store heavy rains and overcome dry periods in summer months.
In cooperation with regional government, research institutes, farmers and the water board, MWH conducted a pilot study for a small region in the eastern part of the Netherlands, to discover whether the effects of soil improvement would merit extensive necessary measurements. During dry summers the region experiences drought in agriculture, so it would benefit greatly from improved soil moisture.
The precise effect of soil improvement on the water balance has not been proven. The current hydrological models do not take possible changes in soil parameters into account. By using a hydrological model to predict the effects of soil improvement on the waterbalance, MWH was able to give new insight into the potential for the hydrological situation in the region. Modeling the effect on the water balance is a (cost) effective solution to gain insight in the possible results of soil improvement. It can take up to six to eight years to notice the actual effects of soil improvements.
For the pilot, MWH selected several soil types. The stakeholders chose the most effective soil improvement measures, which included: no tillage, compost, green fertilizers, mulch and crop variety. Based on other pilots and research, the impact of these measures on the soil parameters were determined. Most of them resulted in increased soil organic matter, porosity and crop growth.
The outcomes of the study:
- Improving the soil can result in doubling the soil moisture storage;
- Soil improvement can reduce overland flow by 70%;
- The time to irrigate can be prolonged by two weeks.
- Apeldoorn, Netherlands
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