Soil moisture content management as a tool for climate change mitigation in WB based on V4 practices (SOMOCO)

-Field trip-

(Bratislava, Slovakia from 20-24 March 2018)



This project serves as a process for encouraging farmers to cope with the climate change conditions and better adoption and implementation of the EU soil management regulations. Proper agronomic practices, such as contour farming, zerotillage, mulching and providing vegetative barriers on the contour help to prevent soil erosion and increase soil moisture. Knowledge and skills on soil moisture management can help farmers in mitigating the impacts of drought by conserving soil moisture, optimize the agricultural production and guarantee stable income for the farmers. V4 experience in soil moisture monitoring in Slovakia and Hungary since 2001 (and some V4 practices) will serve as a basic for transferring knowledge and sharing existing practices in Macedonia and Serbia.

V4WB cooperation in soil management in the regions where water scarcity is an issue, is of a great importance given the fact that V4 countries have significant positive results in this area. This experience and knowledge of V4 countries presents a valuable asset for the WB to achieve faster and more efficient mitigation to climate change. Better mitigation to climate change has significant impact on the level of production and farm economy in the WB countries. By implementing good practices for soil management in relevant agriculture subsectors will contribute for harmonization of the agricultural sectors between the two groups of countries that will have an impact on general harmonization of the economic level in the region.


As part of the project a field trip took place in Bratislava, Slovakia from 20-24th of March,2018. With participation of 16 participants from which 9 from Macedonia (1 Vocal and Educational Trainer, 1  Policy Maker and 7 farmers) and 7 from Serbia (1 Vocal and Educational Trainer, 1 Policy Maker and 5 farmers). As additional experts for the field trip we had 5 soil experts from Hungary and 2 from Slovakia.

On the first day our experts from Hungary held a short seminar in Godollo about the importance of soil management and soil characteristics. On the first theoretical part of this seminar our experts presented their methods, properties and innovations regarding soil management and characteristics. We had the following presentations:

  • “Soil assessing methods” by PhD Gergo Peter Kovacs from the Szent Istvan University.
  • “Soil physical properties and their relation to soil moisture management” by PhD Vince Lang from Discovery R&D Center.
  • “Mitigation of agricultural emissions with partial change of nitrogen fertilizer utilization and cultivations change” by collaboration of Szent Istvan University and GAK.
  • “e-Monitoring of low carbon emission agricultural operations in Hungary” by GAK.

On the second practical part of the seminar the participants were divided in three groups and had the opportunity to see different types of soils and give a diagnosis based on color and texture. Additionally, on the same day participants had the opportunity to see a farm with modern equipment for open field agriculture as well as a greenhouse.

The second day a seminar was held in the Soil Institute in Bratislava, Slovakia. Experts and professors had the opportunity to talk about the situation of their country, what are the ways to improve the situation of the soil and what is the new equipment they can use to help with their farming. Important presentations:

  • “Sustainable soil management” by Zsofia Veres from Agridron Ltd. Hungary.
  • “Soil water management in different conditions of Slovakian agricultural soils” by PhD Beata Houskova from the National Agriculture and Food Centre

On the third day participants had the chance to visit two farms in Slovakia. The first farm was an unconventional farming called center pivot cultivation and irrigation where the owner of the farm developed his own devices for irrigation and cultivation and farming. The second farm was big cooperative farm where apart from cerulean production 1000 hectares they had 1000 head of caws and more than 1500 pigs. This farm was the number one cooperative for production of milk in the region of Bratislava.


First day – Szeint Istvan University in Godollo, Hungary

Importance of soil management and soil characteristics. Everyone can differentiate a good soil from bad just by looking at the color and feeling the texture of their soil. By using the Munsel system for color you can differentiate the color. As two important influencers on soil color we have Iron and Humus. Diverse types of soil texture and their influence:

  • Sand – does not hold water,
  • Clay – capacity to absorb water,
  • Silt – micro sand particles, high capacity to absorb water
  • Textural class – feel tests

From our visit to one of the farms in ownership of the university we learned important information like :

  • They manure on foil in the springtime. The main aim quality, not quantity;
  • The university farm is profitability because it is also subsidies (subsidies remain, leave over). In general they are on break even mainly because they are not profit based and their main focus is on trying new technologies and o research;
  • The profits that they achieve they invest in precision agriculture (50% farmers, 50% state), they do not live from agriculture;
  • Based on the national strategy and EU funds the university farms are developing their research and development program;
  • How to make lower soil part to became as the upper one? The answer is deep tilling, for a long time and manuring

Second day – Seminar at Soil institute in Bratislava


  • Presentations from the director of the Soil Institute,
  • Zsofia Veres (expert from Agridron, Hungary),
  • Mihaly Layos (CEO from Agrofield),
  • Beata Houshkova (expert from the Soil institute in Bratislava).

On this second day seminar our goal was to understand the importance of modern technology in agriculture and how can they assist farmers in facing the current agricultural challenges. Important conclusions:

  • By 2050 population will increase and will create pressure for intensive agriculture use, with required increase in food calories for 50%, with more than 9,7 billion people to feed, population change will influence agriculture production – higher pressure on agriculture where population is growing, developing countries, challenge and problem
  • 38% of cropland has reduced water and nutrient availability
  • 500 years are needed for creation of 2,5 cm soil (humus)
  • Erosion pace is 100 times greater than soil formation
  • 4 types of degradation (chemical and physical) in developed countries + erosion (water, wind) in developing countries
  • Agriculture is decreasing, production of biofuels is increasing – global phenomena, it influences on food prices, there are big subsidies for biofuel,
  • Advances in soil information collection – multispector sensors, from satellite, drones, form sky or surface, detailed infos – patterns, spots, vegetation, technology errors
  • GIS – processes infos, collect, store, manipulate and analyses them, and issues tables, figures, graphs
  • Soil sensing – close to field proximal, small drones on small surfaces and heights
  • It is important how you draw sample from the soil and from where, on smartphone you can get results, extension officer can measure and give this service to farmer so he can get his results on phone and decide what input to use (diagnosis + pharmacy)
  • Soil scanners (Soil electrical conductivity) – it can be put on the tractor and makes soil analysis on whole field (advanced agronomics, saves money, lower seed rate, texture, soil PH, topography, it is not for yield increase, but provides input optimization for higher profits (fertilizer quantity, how to seed, precision agriculture)
  • Site specific agriculture – Agriculture adapted on characteristics of specific part of land, not generally (where, what and how much is needed)
  • Goal is to make the best decisions, use optimal level of inputs

Different types of maps and their characteristics:

  • Archive soil maps – elevation models, heights differences, google maps
  • Soil scanners – organic materials, PH, texture, electrical conductivity
  • Yield maps – covert in profit maps, where we gain and lose money, present the current year, we cannot use data from previous year
  • Satellite images –huge area, spatial resolution, different information source, historical data
  • 50 % of farms in Hungary are ploughing, new trends coming from EU
  • No tilling, special machines for that
  • Need of innovations for decreasing ploughing, years when is not necessary to avoid ploughing, not elimination it at once, if the land is good, everything is possible, if there is a problem (depredated soil) without ploughing it can improve

Techniques without ploughing:

  • Range of ploughs, ideal 20-25 cm, width and depth ratio 1:1, if the land is cultivated longer, shorter spades are needed
  • Trend not to use big tractors, save on fuel, easier cultivation, if spades are compressed it can provide bigger coverage with bigger tractor, light soil can be mixed better with bigger range of ploughs, more compressed spades for compressed soil, bigger range of ploughs bigger porosity of soil
  • If machines are longer, it is heavier to pull them and turn them around on the field, and they are more expensive
  • Grubber are best but are not cheap, grubber producers are competing but it depends in which land they will be used and on what depth with 8-10 km/hour, 80-100 hp is the best-important for mixing the soil, the weight of tractor is also important and how much weight it can bring back
  • Good grubber provides easier mixing and porosity instead of ploughing, problems are under 25 cm and there is no difference between ploughing and grubbering (grubber is more expensive)
  • Penetrometer cannot be attached to plough
  • Grubbering pays off instead of ploughing, it Is the same price but is important what you will do with the soil afterwards, it saves time and effort (labour), with grubber soil is immediately closed, one ploughing less

Second part / Soil scanning

  • To avoid defects, the process starts with measurement equipment validation
  • When precision agriculture will increase, it is expected more companies to offer services and therefore the objectiveness to decrease , them farmers will have problems to choose adequately the provider of precision agriculture services
  • With scanning, farmers can make differences between good, medium and bad soil, if the electric conductivity is good it does not mean that the land is good
  • Soil can be scanned by drones, satellites and maps
  • Scans should be analysed for 3 years in order to make conclusions or to make one year average
  • Data should be taken from developed countries in the area of precision agriculture (data for hybrids, testing), they can be taken quickly and directly and therefore, adequate measures can be undertaken
  • Biggest problems for farmers:
  • Urban people overlook them with underestimation
  • Envy due to subsidies from EU
  • 70% of people live in cities, new generation move out to cities, possible disappearance of villages and agriculture
  • Remaining farmers need to change, and adapt technology

Third day – Farm visits

Inspiring and very informational visit to two very successful farms. The first was an eco-farming where we learned and showed important aspects of different type of farming:

  • Ecological farm, model farm – interesting for visits, grows vegetables without government support and it is based on support of the local community (country not state)
  • Shape of Ecological farm – it is a circle, not a till. The reason behind this is that according to the farmer till is not good for microorganisms. There is usage of a spading machine, no heavy machinery, no fertilizers.
  • This is a 15 ha farm, 1 circle is 1 ha, which means that this farms has 15 circles,
  • Each circle has counter clockwise rotation, one circle 6h depth to 30 cm,
  • The farmer starts with its rotation before sleep, and spends only  7,2 kw for vitiation
  • Better soil structure, only volume not better, everything else is better in this Organic farming
  • Some information about the Owner – Engineer, visionary, he created the model ( replaced energy with time, because time is free and energy is expensive), great ideas that he puts in practice, patents for agro technical bridges that he uses, they do not degrade the soil, he builds them himself,
  • 100 % biological, it is made at home, custom made for his clients, he knows how much, what kind of vegetables they need and when they want them (he uses the world health organization recommendations to make the calculation of their needs, how much calories and vitamins per person in one family, he makes his own excel tables, databases and calendars)
  • The farmer has 61 families as his clients,
  • He has official certificate for bio vegetables due to bureaucracy
  • Water is not safe and so this farm does not use drop by drop system, no plastic due to ecological reasons
  • Irrigates with 5 machines for 2 ha = 60 000 euros, with sprayers, the machines is precise, water in the middle with pipes directly going to the roots
  • For more information about this ecological farm visit

The last educational farm was a corporate farm “Kocin” with 1450ha of soil and animal production of 1500 pigs, 1000 cows:

  • There are 70 people in the cooperative, shareholders
  • 7 000 000 litres milk/annually, are exported to Naples
  • Constructions build with money from IPARD funds, only one is building from their own money, difficult to get money from EU fund at the moment,
  • 20 tons of milk are exported daily directly to Italy with 7 tanks