No. 19 (2006)

The Role and Significance of Soil Analyses in Plant Nutrition and Environmental Protection

Published March 4, 2006
Jakab Loch
Debreceni Egyetem Agrártudományi Centrum, Mezőgazdaságtudományi Kar, Mezőgazdasági Kémiai Tanszék, Debrecen


Loch, J. (2006). The Role and Significance of Soil Analyses in Plant Nutrition and Environmental Protection. Acta Agraria Debreceniensis, (19), 3-8.

Hungary has a rich history of soil analyses and soil mapping. Our main tasks today are the preservation of soil fertility as well as balancing the goals of production and environmental protection. The main requirement of agricultural production is to adapt to ecological and economic conditions.
In a series of consultative meetings in the past seven years, representatives from Central and Eastern Europe have analyzed nutrient management practices in their respective countries. According to a joint memorandum agreed upon in 2000, in the countries awaiting accession, the quantity of nutrients used per hectare is considerably smaller than the Western-European usage targeted through special subsidies. The current low nutrient usage contradicts the principles of sustainability and that of the efficient use of resources, jeopardizing soil fertility.
In Hungary, the use of inorganic fertilizers underwent a dynamic development, which manifested itself in an almost tenfold usage growth between 1960 and 1985. This growth slowed down somewhat between 1985 and 1990 and then reduced dramatically after 1990, reaching record lows at the usage levels of the 60s. The nutrient supply has had a negative balance for the last 15 years.
The increasing and then decreasing usage trends can equally be detected in the domestic yield averages of wheat and corn as well as in the nutrient supply of soils. Yields were the largest when usage levels were the highest, and decreased thereafter. Draughts have also contributed to smaller yields. The dramatic decrease in the use of inorganic fertilizers when adequate organic fertilizers are lacking endangers our soils’ fertility.
About 50% of soils in Hungary are acidic. Acidity is mostly determined by soil formation, but especially on soils with a low buffering capacity, this acidity may intensify due to inorganic fertilizers. Sustainable agriculture requires the chemical improvement of acidic soils. According to their y1 values, the majority of our acidic soils need to be improved. This chemical soil remediation is required in 15% of the acidic soils, while it’s recommended for another 20% of these soils.
Results of the analyses conducted in the framework of the soil-monitoring system set up in Hungary in 1992 show that in 95% of the analyzed samples, the toxic element content is below the allowable limit. Cultivated areas are not contaminated; toxicity above the legal level was found only in specific high-risk sampling areas: in the vicinity of industry, due to local overload. The basic principle of sustainable agriculture is to preserve soil fertility without undue strain on the environment. The intensity of the production needs to be considered according to the conditions of the site; i.e.; nutrient management needs to be site-specific. It is recommended to differentiate three types of cultivated land in terms of environmental sensitivity: areas with favorable conditions, endangered areas, and protected areas, and then to adopt nutrient management practices accordingly. To meet all the above-mentioned goals is impossible without systematic soil analysis. Tests conducted by the national monitoring system cannot replace regular field measurements.


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