Improving soil management

Managing soils
Establishing planned soil use

Soil management practices include increasing humus content and biological activity as well as meeting mineral deficiency of soils: manipulation of crop rotations and strip-cropping: deep and shallow rooted plants bring different nutrients to the surface; different crops require different nutrients; growing green manure; undersowing; application of rock dust, manure, crop and agro-industry residues, household waste, compost; soil tillage, such as use of an implement which aerates the soil.


Overall, the annual global cost of land degradation is estimated at around $300bn (2017 data). Yet the cost of taking action against land degradation is much lower than the cost of inaction, and the returns are high. For example, on average, a $1 investment into restoration of degraded land returns $5. This means it makes both environmental and economic sense.


Soil degradation, in particular soil erosion, is a major environmental problem in many countries which can lead to irreversible damage. Desertification and water shortages are a serious environmental problem affecting the most fragile areas. It is affecting the Mediterranean region and some countries in transition.

The Environmental Programme for Europe recommends: (1) reviewing national environmental legislation and legislation concerning agriculture, forestry and other sectors, as appropriate, to ensure the sustainable use and protection of soils; (2) putting more emphasis on preventive and protective strategies, supplementing them with remedial and reactive strategies, where necessary, to ensure the protection of the natural characteristics and functions of soils; (3) identifying contaminated sites, including sites contaminated by military activity, assessing their threat to health and the environment and developing measures to reduce the risks considered unacceptable; (4) intensifying work on the investigation and understanding of the effects of desertification and design appropriate remediation strategies, such as water management and reforestation, in particular in eastern and southern Europe; (5) reviewing agricultural policies and subsidies and develop national and local programmes and plans to protect soil, in particular, from erosion, the unsustainable use of chemicals and irrigation by polluted waters, and to restore soil fertility; and (6) encouraging Parties to the Convention on Desertification to fulfil their commitments under the Convention as soon as possible.

Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal