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Soil is the fundamental basis of agricultural production. It is the habitat of cultivated plants and consists of inorganic minerals and humus. It stores carbon, nutrients and water. As soil-forming processes go on rather slowly, this resource should be dealt with in a responsible manner. JKI research contributes to protecting the soil and to enhancing its sustainable use. We look into the diverse functions of soil,  and we develop protection strategies and put them to the test in the fields.

We explore soil as the vital habitat of crops and devise strategies for a need-based use of fertilizers and plant protection products. The properties of different soils serve as compass for which sites are best for which crop and, furthermore, determine  how to use land efficiently but gently thanks to healthy crop rotation and adequate soil management. Another emphasis in research is placed on the functions of soil as water storage and humus supplier.

Agricultural soils are home to a variety of micro-organisms, plants and animals. Scientists of the Julius Kühn Institute investigate their cohabitation, giving special attention to micro-organisms and their interrelation with cultivated plants particularly in the root area.

The availability of nutrients for the crops is high on the research agenda. However, when it comes to fertilizers, often less is more. A too much of nutrients means that the excess is simply wasted and, what is more, may cause harm to the environment. For example, they can be washed out from the soil and reach groundwater, lakes, rivers, inland seas and oceans, where they cause damage in the long term. The Julius Kühn Institute  is an active partner in national and international bodies analyzing the regional as well as global impact of agriculture on natural ecosystems. Its research results in this field are included in policy advisory activities.

Our focus in key words:

  • soil functions and soil fertility
  • application of fertilizers as needed
  • soil as natural habitat
  • residues in soils and ecotoxicology