Soil Quality for Sustainable Agriculture

  • Duraisamy Vasu
  • Pramod Tiwary
  • Padikkal Chandran
  • Surendra Kumar Singh


Being integral to all functions of terrestrial ecosystem, soil is intended to produce food for feeding the growing population of the world. However, food security is facing threat from soil degradation occurring worldwide. Soils degrade due to the exerting pressure from various sectors of the society including urbanization and industrialization. The major driving forces of soil degradation are deforestation, change in land use, soil erosion, uncontrolled grazing, waste disposal, and unscientific land management. Globally, 24% (350 lakh km2) of the land has degraded which is increasing at the rate of 50–100 lakh ha year−1 and poses threat to the livelihood of more than 1500 million people. In this scenario, sustaining soil quality (SQ) is the major challenge to meet the increasing food demand. Hence, evaluating and monitoring SQ is crucial to sustain agricultural production and to overcome the vagaries of climate change on soil functions. However, soil quality per se is complex and site-specific because of the larger variety of soil usage, and its evaluation is difficult due to the subjectivity. Nonetheless, soil quality can be quantified in the form of an index for temporal and spatial comparison of various land use and management systems. In this chapter, we discuss the concept and importance of SQ, indicators of SQ, minimum data set (MDS) for evaluating SQ, methods of MDS selection, and indexing of the soil quality. It will bring out the effect of soil and crop management practices such as tillage, cropping systems, cover crops, and nutrient management on soil quality and crop production focusing in tropical environments. We conclude that principal component analysis is an effective method to select MDS from a large set of soil properties and weighted index method of quantifying SQ proved to be efficient in predicting changes in SQ under various crop production systems. Conservation tillage methods coupled with integrated nutrient management sustains or aggrades the soil quality in different agroecosystems.


Conservation agriculture Earthworm population Factor analysis Indexing soil quality Soil organic matter 



Bulk density




Cation exchange capacity


Carbon dioxide


Conservation tillage


Decision trees


Electrical conductivity


Exchangeable sodium percentage


Food and Agriculture Organization




Farmyard manure




Indo-Gangetic plains


Integrated nutrient management




Microbial biomass carbon


Minimum data set


Muencheberg soil quality rating


Minimum tillage




Natural resources conservation service


No tillage




Principal components


Principal component analysis


Soil biological quality-arthropod




Stubble-mulch tillage


Soil organic carbon


Soil organic matter


Soil quality


Soil quality index




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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Duraisamy Vasu
    • 1
  • Pramod Tiwary
    • 1
  • Padikkal Chandran
    • 1
  • Surendra Kumar Singh
    • 1
  1. 1.ICAR – National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land-Use PlanningNagpurIndia

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