Thesis subject

Impacts of agricultural management measures on soil compaction

The Environmental Systems Analysis Group provides the possibility for students to do their thesis in collaboration with our group. This is one of many possible thesis subjects. Please feel free to contact professor De Vries (right) for more information.

The health of soils strongly controls agricultural production, while stable and productive soils also affect the resilience of farms to cope with the effects of climate change. Soil compaction has been identified as a major soil threat, reducing the quantity and the quality of the crop yield by reducing soil aeration, and limiting the development of the root system and its ability to uptake nutrients and water. There is also a strong relation between compaction and erosion and flooding since the water infiltration capacity of the soil is reduced. Because soil structure influences nearly all soil processes, compaction affects a whole range of soil functions relating to air regime, water regime, and plant production.

The aim of this thesis is a quantification of impacts of agronomic management measures on soil compaction and (the effects of compaction on) crop yields, accounting for differences in agro-ecological conditions. Empirical relationships between management and impacts will be assessed based on published scientific field studies using meta-analytical techniques. A distinction will be made in  meta-analysis, while distinguishing  agro-ecological conditions affecting the impacts and meta-regression, accounting explicitly for those agro-ecological conditions in a meta-regression model. The thesis is part of an overall PhD trajectory focused on evaluating agricultural management with the goal of improving crop growth/soil quality indicators and reducing environmental impacts by identifying the most promising mitigation options via agricultural management.