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Managing soil and groundwater impacts from agriculture for sustainable intensification (“INSPIRATION”)

  • 9 January, 2017
  • Wageningen University, Environmental Systems Analysis
  • prof. dr ir W de Vries
  • Dr. GH Ros

INSPIRATION is a multidisciplinary European Training Network combining scientists, specialists, and early stage researchers (ESRs) in the fields of agriculture, environmental studies, and decision-making and to address 4 critical issues facing the sustainable intensification of agriculture in Europe. These are: (i) the need to protect, maintain and improve soil and water resources; (ii) the need for synergistic and holistic on-farm management practices to mitigate environmental impacts from agriculture; (iii) the legacy of environmental damage from agricultural production which limits socio-economic well being and sustainable development; and (iv) a shortage of skilled professionals trained in these areas.
This PhD project (ESR 14 of INSPIRATION) develops a spatially-explicit decision support system to evaluate management strategies for the sustainable development of soil and water resources across management strategies in terms of organic matter, nutrients, and metals, based on local agro-ecosystem properties and as a function of time. Simple algorithms will couple management strategies (fertilization, crop rotation, and leaching or runoff) to impacts (soil carbon, phosphate, nitrogen, and compaction). A literature review will determine indicators and critical values, while meta-analysis or model approaches will quantify impacts. The next step is to develop a flexible model framework integrating the indicators with multi-criteria impact assessment to evaluate soil and nutrient management, with goals of maximal agricultural intensification (fertilizer use efficiency, crop yields, land use) and minimal negative environmental externalities. The final task is the creation of a user-adaptable optimization technique spanning spatial and temporal scales to select appropriate management options, tested in a specific spatial context to create a dynamic on-line decision support system for stakeholders and policymakers.

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Madaline Young

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