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

Sustainable management of agricultural soils: Balancing multiple perspectives and tradeoffs 

Gina Garland1,2
Gina Garland
  • 1ETH Zurich, Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, Department of Systems Science, Zurich, Switzerland (
  • 2Agroscope, Soil Quality and Use group, Zurich, Switzerland (

As the global population expands, the demand for food, fuel and fiber rises steadily. Meeting these needs in a sustainable manner, without depleting natural resources or polluting the environment remains one of the greatest challenges of our time. What is more, anticipating changes in these systems as a result of climate change, and across a multitude of environmental and socioeconomic contexts adds yet even further complexity to this already convoluted issue. 

At the heart of this matter lies agricultural soils, and how management practices are used to modify and adapt their capacity to sequester carbon and provide nutrients and water to growing plants. While soils are notoriously heterogenous on their own, this is further enhanced by their role as an important environmental reservoir linking plants and residues to soil microbial communities and soil fauna, the atmosphere, and water. Understanding how management practices influence these interactive aspects of the soil environment is key to developing agricultural management systems in a sustainable, effective and site-specific manner.

In this presentation I will highlight how it is vital for future studies to consider a) how management practices will simultaneously impact a variety of different soil functions or services, not just one or two, in order to assess environmental tradeoffs within a given system, b) how these are impacted across different spatial scales, and c) the importance of developing management practices that are adapted to local, site-specific conditions. It is clear that the complexity of modifying agricultural systems to survive in a rapidly changing climate demands interdisciplinary approaches. It is thus my hope that this presentation will foster open discussion and meaningful collaborations to address such challenging societal questions.

How to cite: Garland, G.: Sustainable management of agricultural soils: Balancing multiple perspectives and tradeoffs , EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-2801,, 2023.