EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Soil science skills for the future: a European perspective

Yves Coquet1, Jennifer Veenstra2, Romain Melot2, and Christian Walter3
Yves Coquet et al.
  • 1Université Paris Saclay, AgroParisTech, Palaiseau, France (
  • 2INRAE, Palaiseau, France
  • 3Institut Agro, Rennes, France

As part of the European Joint Project (EJP) SOIL on agricultural soil management, we designed and conducted a survey dedicated to the apprehension of the soil science skills required in the future (i.e. 20 years from now). The study adopted an interdisciplinary approach between Soil Science and Social Sciences. Various categories of stakeholders were contacted, including representatives of farmer organizations, farmer advisors, public policy makers, industry and retailers, NGOs, education and research organizations, and certifying and funding agencies. People were asked to provide personal opinions.

The survey comprised five sections. The first section focused on the characterization of the respondents and their relation to soils through their professional activities. The next three sections were designed to collect data about the stakeholders’ assessment of the future importance of soil science skills and identify innovative ideas. In section two, the respondents were asked to provide a list of skills they thought would be important in the future (open questions). Then, in the third section, they were asked to rank a series of proposed skills from 1 (useless) to 8 (essential). Skills were grouped into categories, such as “scientific knowledge on soil and their functioning”, “assessing soil quality” or “knowing how to mobilise agronomic drivers to manage and protect soils”. The survey also included some generic and technical skills, such as oral and written communication or use of databases. In the fourth section, the respondents could provide and rank additional skills that were not included in previous sections. In the fifth and last section, the objective was to identify future soil science related professional profiles. Here, respondents could provide a list of professional profiles and match them with the required skills.

The survey was handled and distributed on line using LimeSurveyTM. The survey was available in English and in the national language of each of the 24 countries taking part in the EJP SOIL. Stakeholders were contacted through the National Hubs set up within the framework of the EJP SOIL. More than a thousand stakeholders were invited to collaborate. Efforts were made to balance participation between countries and stakeholder categories. For that purpose, we set up a target for the number of respondents per country proportional to its NUTS 2 regions. To take into consideration smaller countries representation, a minimum of invitations per country was also set. The response rate and the distribution of the responses between stakeholder categories was satisfactory. The target number was not reached for a few countries.

The analysis of the survey results allowed to identify (i) the skills considered most important according to the categories of stakeholders; (ii) new competences traditionally not included in training curricula but considered necessary by stakeholders; (iii) differences in appreciation according to respondents; (iv) possible evolutions of job profiles related to soil science.  The results of this survey will contribute to EJP’s roadmap on agricultural soil management by providing an objective basis for recommandations on training program evolution within EU.

How to cite: Coquet, Y., Veenstra, J., Melot, R., and Walter, C.: Soil science skills for the future: a European perspective, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11437,, 2023.