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15.5 Protecting biodiversity: Many ways to support soil biodiversity and fertility

Intensive land use has been shown to reduce soil biodiversity and fertility around the world. Soil organisms (microbes and invertebrates) maintain some of the most important life-sustaining processes by breaking down organic matter and providing plants with the nutrients and water they need. At the same time, they regulate the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Recent research shows that soil fungi play a key role in maintaining soil structure and fertility. They also sequester carbon in soils. Tillage and fertilisation in particular reduce fungal biodiversity.

We researched ways to increase the sustainability and biodiversity of farmland through the use of soil-improving fibres produced as by-products of forest industries. The studies have shown that the fibres increase the amount of fungi and biodiversity and reduce the amount of solids washed away in field run-off. Along with solids, run-off carries away soil nutrients, so the research is also closely linked to water protection.

Imports of mineral nitrogen fertilisers can also be reduced through the use of biological nitrogen fixation, recycled fertilisers and precision farming and fertilisation. We are also exploring more sustainable approaches to greenhouse vegetable and seedling production by investigating the possibility of replacing peat and mineral nitrogen with various by-products and biomasses.