18th September 2018

Tuesday’s Soil based Ecosystem Service – Agricultural biomass production

Definition: Agricultural biomass production refers to production of plants for food, fodder, fibre or energy biomass.

Outputs: Food, fodder, fibre and industrial biomass raw materials, medicinal, ornamental and decorative plants, cosmetics, building materials, bio-fuel and others. Besides water and air, food is essential for humans.

Relevant effects, processes and controlling soil properties: This service is based on a wide range and complex interactions of physical, chemical, and biological soil properties and processes that determine the quality of agricultural soils. The Agricultural biomass production is an essential part of the nutrient, carbon and water cycle. The Agricultural biomass production is influenced by a variety of key soil properties such as functional soil depth, nutrient content and quantity, soil organic matter (type), pH, mineral composition, soil texture and structure, stone content, water holding capacity, soil organisms, pH value and several others.

Relations to the entire ecosystem: By agricultural production, we define single (and rarely several) plant species, being promoted for successful growth and fructification to achieve adequate yields. Sustainable agriculture promotes sustainable soil management, underground biodiversity and to a certain extent above-ground biodiversity. In general, agricultural ecosystems are managed as monocultures or in the case of grasslands – selected species compositions are used. Besides biodiversity, other soil ecosystem-services are marginally influenced.

Relations to other soil ecosystem services: Agricultural biomass production is strongly related to other soil ecosystem services such as water storage, nutrient cycling, water retention, carbon cycle, and habitat provision. Other services can be strongly influenced by agricultural practices such as global climate regulation, local climate regulation, water retention, or cultural and natural archives.

Land use impacts: Agriculture biomass production normally depends on targeted soil management. Different agricultural practices, sustainable as well as un-sustainable, have a large influence on the agricultural soil quality as well as on the whole ecosystem. Agricultural practices can embed different levels of input and output of nutrients and energy: they range from more sustainable (organic farming) to less sustainable (conventional farming – industrial agriculture). Unsustainable agricultural practices also negatively affect soil fertility and biodiversity.

Climate change impacts: Climate change affects agricultural production by salinization, drought, heat waves, excess moisture, etc. Climate changes also raise awareness for changes in soil management practices.

Demand aspects: Earth population growth increases the societal demand for outputs of the agricultural biomass production.