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There were ten participants from eight countries: Panohkov, P.P. (Bulgaria); Holberg, N. (Denmark); Gautronneau, Y. (France); Fragstein, P. von (Germany); Kloen, H. (The Netherlands); Hansen, S. (Norway); Brunner, T., Mäder, P. and Sharp, D. (Switzerland) and Philipps, L. (United Kingdom).

The overall task of the Working Group was put into a very wide frame. Before starting discussions about the specific points, questions of general importance in the context of agricultural research were tried to be clarified:

Agricultural research:

For whom?

  • For improving the farming systems (for farmers)
  • For the scientific community
  • For policy makers and administrative authorities

Definition of terms:

  • Approach
  • Methodology
  • Methods

Typology of methods:


  • Destructive vs. non-destructive
  • Descriptive vs. non descriptive

Aim of methods:


  • For analysis
  • For assessment
  • For diagnosis
  • For prognosis
  • For evaluation

As a result of the introductory discussion, the group decided to slightly reorient the task of the Session. There was general agreement among the participants that research methods should be aimed at:

A first step which is discussed below is the development of indicators for soil fertility and nutrient efficiency. This results in a list of indicators and a very provisional list of priorities.

Improvement and maintenance of soil fertility


Physical approach


  • Cultivated soil profile (macroscopic method)
    • Qualitative approach
    • Bulk density
    • Compaction
    • Earthworm channels
    • Root growth
    • Rhizobium nodules
  • (1)

  • Micromorphological investigations
  • (3)

    Chemical approach


  • Standard soil analysis, but better would be the integration of two to three extractants of increasing activity for a better understanding of the potential of nutrient release of the soil
  • (1)

  • Nutrient balancing
  • (1)

  • Organic matter
  • (1)

  • C/N-ratio
  • (1)

  • Humus balance
  • (1)

  • Measurements of mineralization capacity
  • (2)

  • Salinity (of regional relevance)
  • (3)

    Biological approach


  • Microbial analysis


  • Biomass
  • (1)


  • Nmic
  • (1)


  • Cmic
  • (1)


  • FDA
  • (1)

  • Mycorrihizae measurements
  • (3)

    Efficient use of nutrients


  • Yield, yield components
  • (1)

  • Nutrient balances, including nutrient losses
  • (1)

  • Nutrient availability (isotopes)
  • (1)

  • Plant analysis, product quality parameters
  • (2)

  • Efficiency ratio
  • (2)

  • Limitation of nutrients (law of minimum)
  • (3)

  • Measurement of rooting system
    • Physical issues
    • Morphological issues
    • Biochemical issues
  • (3)

    Next steps to be taken could be:

    Way of interaction with farming practice (see 'On-farm Research' Working Group).

    A SWOT table was prepared for the cultivated soil profile (Gautronneau, et al.,


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