Evaluation of soil health parameters in different production systems in the region of Idanha-a-Nova

We intend, within a time frame of one year, to assess several indicators of soil health in different production systems in the region of Idanha-a-Nova. Physico-chemical and biological parameters will be evaluated, including measures of structural and functional diversity at the level of the soil microbiome, meso and macrofauna. 
The study will be conducted on 24 plots distributed between olive, almond and irrigated and rainfed pasture plantations and with different levels of land-use intensification.
The indicators assessed will be related to different soil processes underlying the provision of ecosystem services by soil, e.g. nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration, water regulation and maintenance of soil structure.
The information gathered will allow us to identify which indicators (or composition of indicators) respond best to different land-use types and management intensity, and which are most closely related to key processes/services. The aim is to create a toolbox that will enable the development of a “soil health” monitoring programme and the consequent translation of this knowledge into more sustainable practices at the level of the region’s agro-ecosystems.
The results obtained during this first year will also make it possible to assess the sustainability and level of resilience of current agricultural systems and help design the future. 

Throughout the year the following assessments will be carried out on the different plots:
    · simulation of soil erosion processes;
    · soil sampling to assess the soil microbiome
    · sampling for evaluation of soil meso and macrofauna. 

The sampling design contemplates the installation of different sampling points per plot using the methods described below.

Soil Biology:

  • TSBF to sample earthworm populations with identification at species and functional group level. The remaining groups of soil fauna (invertebrates visible to the naked eye) will be identified at the functional group level by metabarcoding techniques. 
  • Pitfall traps for sampling surface-dwelling soil macrofauna invertebrates. Identification at functional and taxonomic group level.
  • Soil “colours” for sampling microarthropods. Identification at the functional level (morphotype) and taxonomic identification by metabarcoding. 
  • Soil samples for evaluation of diversity parameters of Archaea, Bacteria, fungi, protists and invertebrates by metabarcoding.
  • Bait lamina” for in situ assessment of soil fauna activity.
  • Tea-bag method for the evaluation of the decomposition process of organic matter.
  • Ion exchange membranes” for in situ assessment of plant nutrient availability.

Soil chemistry:

  • Soil chemical parameters: evaluation of fertility parameters (macro and micronutrients), total carbon, total organic carbon, total nitrogen, mineral nitrogen (ammonia and nitrates).

Soil physics:

  • Granulometry: clay, silt and sand contents (fine and coarse).
  • Measurement of water infiltration capacity and soil compaction.
  • Measurement of soil aggregate stability.
  • Monitoring of air temperature, soil temperature and soil humidity in real-time throughout the study.
  • Simulation of erosion processes to assess soil erodibility.


Adélia Nunes (CEGOT-UC)
Albano Figueiredo (CEGOT-UC)
Jorge Durán Humia (CEF-UC)
Joana Costa (CEF-UC)
José Paulo Sousa (CEF-UC)
Luís Cunha (CEF-UC)
Marie Bartz (CARE-BIO e CEF-UC)

Ricardo Leitão (CEF-UC) (Aluno PhD Cultivar)
Eduardo Nascimento (CEF-UC) (Cultivar Fellow)
Sara Mendes (CEF-UC)


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