Drivers and trends for agricultural soil management – a foresight study for Germany

Anja Techen, Katharina Helming


Climate change is a strong driving force for agricultural soil management. However, adaptation  pathways of agricultural management to climate change also depend on other, interacting  driving forces. These include socio-economic drivers (consumer demand, factor costs, policies,  farm(er)s' attributes), bio-physical drivers (land availability, soil degradation, resource scarcities)  technological drivers (ICT & robotics, tillage, biomass utilization, research & monitoring). A decent  understanding of such driving forces and how they might be translated into trends of soil  management is necessary to inform scenario development and modelling for analyzing climate  change adaptation in terms of yields, economic performance and environmental integration. We  conducted a foresight review of driving forces and trends for soil management in Germany as an  example. We distinguished between quantitative trends (namely intensification vs  extensification) and qualitative trends in soil management. While quantitative trends have been  addressed in modelling studies since long, qualitative trends imply a higher degree of uncertainty  in terms of their characteristics and implications. We differentiate such qualitative trends into five  categories: (i) Crops and rotations, (ii) mechanical pressures, (iii) inputs into the soil, (iv) spatial  patterns of cropping systems, (v) general behavior concerning soil management. We outline  possible developments of such management categories including preliminary uncertainty  estimation and consequences for the integration of productivity performance with  environmental concerns.

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