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Can Soil Fertility Be Modelled? pp.103-104 $100.00
Authors:  (B. Foereid, Plant & Soil Science, Cruickshank Building, School of Biological Science, University of Aberdeen, King's College, UK)
Several simulation models for carbon and nitrogen turnover exist (e.g Parton et al., 1987;
Jenkinson et al., 1987; Williams, 1990; Hansen et al., 1993; Bradbury et al., 1993). Most of
them are mainly for agricultural systems, but some can deal with grasslands and forests as
well. The interest in model development has been driven first by an interest in predicting
nitrogen leaching and later by an interest in green house gas emissions and soil carbon
storage. Modelling nitrogen availability and leaching when large and known quantities of
nitrogen fertilisers are added is relatively easy. It is much more difficult to predict availability
of nitrogen and other nutrients under natural conditions and low input agriculture. The
problem is that under such conditions, predicting nutrient levels at any one time depend on
accurate prediction of mineralisation and immobilisation rates. These are temporally and
spatially variable, and the factors that control them are only partially known (e.g. Vinten et
al., 2002; Silva et al., 2005). Some measurable soil parameters are known to be related to soil
fertility, such as carbon and clay content (Sylvia et al., 1998). However, soil fertility can not
be fully predicted from measurable parameters, so the concept of soil fertility is not fully
understood. Soil classification systems (for example FAO classification) usually attach a
measure of suitability for agriculture to each soil type, but this is based on experience rather
than an understanding of how the fertility comes about. Process based models can only
describe processes that are understood, and therefore struggle to describe natural soil fertility
adequately. An alternative approach is to introduce soil fertility as calibrated factor based on
soil type in the models (Fisher et al., 2002).This can be a good way to get relatively accurate
predictions of yield, but does not really improve our understanding of the concept of soil
fertility. Furthermore, when also other parameters such as green house gas emission need to
be predicted, a more quantitative understanding of the concept of soil fertility is urgently
needed. This will require both a better understanding of the soil itself and the interaction
between soil and inputs of fertilisers and organic material. 

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Can Soil Fertility Be Modelled? pp.103-104