Relaunch cropping on marginal soils by incorporating amendments and beneficial trace elements in an interdisciplinary approach

Peter Schröder, Michel Mench, Virmantas Povilaitis, Francois Rineau, Beata Rutkowska, Michael Schloter, Wieslaw Szulc, Renaldas Žydelis, Evelin Loit

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

5 Scopus citations


In the EU and world-wide, agriculture is in transition. Whilst we just converted conventional farming imprinted by the post-war food demand and heavy agrochemical usage into integrated and sustainable farming with optimized production, we now have to focus on even smarter agricultural management. Enhanced nutrient efficiency and resistance to pests/pathogens combined with a greener footprint will be crucial for future sustainable farming and its wider environment. Future land use must embrace efficient production and utilization of biomass for improved economic, environmental, and social outcomes, as subsumed under the EU Green Deal, including also sites that have so far been considered as marginal and excluded from production. Another frontier is to supply high-quality food and feed to increase the nutrient density of staple crops. In diets of over two-thirds of the world's population, more than one micronutrient (Fe, Zn, I or Se) is lacking. To improve nutritious values of crops, it will be necessary to combine integrated, systems-based approaches of land management with sustainable redevelopment of agriculture, including central ecosystem services, on so far neglected sites: neglected grassland, set aside land, and marginal lands, paying attention to their connectivity with natural areas. Here we need new integrative approaches which allow the application of different instruments to provide us not only with biomass of sufficient quality and quantity in a site specific manner, but also to improve soil ecological services, e.g. soil C sequestration, water quality, habitat and soil resistance to erosion, while keeping fertilization as low as possible. Such instruments may include the application of different forms of high carbon amendments, the application of macro- and microelements to improve crop performance and quality as well as a targeted manipulation of the soil microbiome. Under certain caveats, the potential of such sites can be unlocked by innovative production systems, ready for the sustainable production of crops enriched in micronutrients and providing services within a circular economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149844
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Agricultural management
  • Fortification
  • High carbon amendments
  • Marginal soils
  • Micronutrients
  • Soil microbiome


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