Sustainable Soil Management

The foundation of our existence

Soil is literally the foundation of our existence. It provides us with many services. We use it to store water, it has the ability to decontaminate itself, and we build houses on it. And healthy soils are the foundation for us to be able to grow crops and for nature to flourish. Deltas such as the Netherlands are some of the most fertile and biodiverse regions of the world, but they are also the most densely populated. This leads to competing claims on space for purposes such as nature, recreation, water management, infrastructure and housing, and it places excess pressure on soils to produce sufficient quantities of food. Soils are becoming depleted due to the effects of intensive agriculture, the use of heavy agricultural machinery, and a lack of consideration of how certain crops and soil types go together. This, in turn, has negative impacts on the environment, humans and animal life. The big research challenge therefore is about making soil management ‘healthy’ in both economic and ecological terms. This requires an integrated and collaborative approach involving universities and research institutes, businesses and governments.


  • Working with farmers and contract workers to tackle soil compaction in the northern Netherlands
    This project aims to reach agricultural business owners through their contract workers, enabling them to jointly tackle the problem of soil compaction.
  • Bokashi: soil in development
    Historically, grass cuttings from ditches and verges have tended to be transported far away for disposal. But dairy farmers are increasingly interested in using that material on their farms so they can process it into compost or Bokashi. How does Bokashi affect production and soil quality?
  • Color Circle
    The transition to a circular economy, in which there’s no such thing as waste and raw materials are re-used over and over again, requires a bespoke, local approach. That’s why five European regions have launched a ‘Color Circle’ project, in which they can learn from each other about how to come up with sustainable solutions and, in turn, serve as examples to other regions.
  • Effective control of yellow nutsedge
    The use of chemical crop protection agents is subject to increasingly strict restrictions, which means we need to come up with alternative approaches. One such alternative is the use of electrophysical technology.


Everything published by the Sustainable Soil Management applied research group can be found on Greeni, the online library for the green universities of applied sciences.

About the professor

Emiel Elferink studied Biology at the University of Groningen. His interest in sustainability issues related to agriculture and food production led him to specialise in Energy and Environmental Sciences. He went on to do his doctoral research into the sustainability of animal-based food production.

A common theme in all his subsequent research and projects was the importance of integrated approaches. He put that into practice by linking topics and themes, working with other disciplines and businesses, and collaborating with clients to identify integrated solutions. Increasingly, his work came to focus on the interface of agriculture, bio-based materials and soil. In 2014, a position at Bioclear gave him the opportunity to advance his work and widen it to include the microbiological aspects of soil and the role of soil in the bio-based economy.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions about the applied research group, please email [email protected]