Key message

Measurements of soil samples from different agricultural land uses over the period 2015-2023 show that phosphorus (P) is deficient in soils of extensive orchards, olive groves and pastures, below optimum in intensive orchards, vineyards and grasslands, and adequate in arable land. The low phosphorus content is mainly due to the natural low content of this nutrient in Slovenian soils and leaching. Potassium (K) contents are generally higher than P, reflecting Slovenia's better natural soil K supply. Soil organic matter content is good and comparable to other countries of similar climates and (very) good compared to Mediterranean countries in Europe. Soils with sufficient organic matter have many positive effects, such as better crop yields and less leaching of nutrients and pollutants into the groundwater. The acidity of agricultural soils is lower in intensive orchards and higher in olive groves (natural soil conditions). Maintaining soil fertility is the basis for sustainable utilisation of agricultural land and is also an intergenerational responsibility.  

The content of plant nutrients is an indicator that represents the supply of agricultural land in Slovenia with the main plant nutrients, i.e. phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), accompanied by universal indicators such as soil acidity (pH) and soil organic matter content (OMC). The nitrogen content is indicated by the organic matter content.

The indicator presents the plant nutrient content for the following categories: extensive orchard, field, olive grow, pasture, orchard, and meadow.

The indicator is a summary of statistical processing of analytical values of parameters measured in soil samples.

The values are expressed as median values.


Figure KM26-1: Plant available phosphorus (P₂O₅) content in topsoils of agricultural land in the period 2015–2023

SOURCE: calculations by AIS, 2023

Show data
Average value - arithmetic mean[mg P2O5/100 g soil] Mean value - median[mg P2O5/100 g soil] Minimum values[mg P2O5/100 g soil] Maximum values[mg P2O5/100 g soil]
Extensive orchard 12.20 3.40 0.60 98.30
Arable 27.90 19.50 0.30 408.40
Olive grove 9.70 7.20 1.40 37.20
Pasture 11.30 3.50 0.40 106.40
Orchard 18.90 11.50 0.30 118.30
Meadow 11.30 5.20 0.30 470.60
Vineyard 16 9.60 0.20 170.90
Figure KM26-2: Plant available potassium (K₂O) content in topsoils of agricultural land in the period 2015–2023

SOURCE: calculations by AIS, 2023

Show data
Average value - arithmetic mean[mg K2O/100 g soil] Mean value - median[mg K2O/100 g soil] Minimum values[mg K2O/100 g soil] Maximum values[mg K2O/100 g soil]
Extensive orchard 25.20 19.30 10.50 79.20
Arable 29.60 25.70 4.20 263.20
Olive grove 27.10 26.90 12.60 58.30
Pasture 26.90 22 4.60 75
Orchard 26 21.50 7.10 95.50
Meadow 23.60 18.60 3.90 155
Vineyard 28.70 25.20 4.60 194.10
Figure KM26-3: Soil organic matter content in topsoil of agricultural land in the period 2015–2023

INDIC_AG (Production value at basic price)

Show data
Average value - arithmetic mean[%] Mean value - median[%] Minimum values[%] Maximum values[%]
Extensive orchard 6.80 5.60 2.60 14.30
Arable 5.20 4.30 1.20 58.40
Olive grove 3.10 2.60 1.80 8.90
Pasture 4.10 3.80 1.70 10.90
Meadow 6.80 6.20 2.10 32.80
Vineyard 2.90 2.70 0.50 8.40
Figure KM26-4: Acidity of the upper soil horizon of agricultural land - Soil pH in the period 2015–2023

SOURCE: calculations by AIS, 2023

Show data
Average value - arithmetic mean[pH] Mean value - median[pH] Minimum values[pH] Maximum values[pH]
Extensive orchard 6.50 6.20 5.10 7.60
Arable 6.50 6.40 4.80 8.20
Olive grove 7.50 7.60 5.90 7.90
Pasture 6.40 6.30 5.10 7.90
Meadow 6.30 6.20 4.80 8
Vineyard 6.90 7.10 5.20 8


  • Sustainable use and management of agricultural land - maintaining soil fertility while producing the necessary amounts of food and returning the nutrients to the soil by proper fertilizing.

Preservation of soil fertility of agricultural land is stipulated in the Agricultural Land Act, regulations, and other laws. Preservation of high-quality agricultural soils is also a constitutional category.

With each crop, we also 'take' plant nutrients out of the soil. In order to prevent nutrient depletion, acidification and thus reduced soil fertility (i.e. soil degradation), nutrients should be returned to the soil by fertilizing in such quantities and in an environmentally sound manner that the soil contains appropriate/optimal amounts as specified in Guidelines for professionally justified fertilization (Mihelič et al., 2010). However, the optimal and achievable contents may vary.

Soil organic matter consists of living organisms and dead plant and animal remains. It has other important impacts besides being a source of plant nutrients. The microbiological decomposition of organic matter produces polysaccharides which act as a cementing material (binder) in the soil and thus participate in the formation of soil aggregates (good stability of the soil structure). Organic matter also increases the cation exchange capacity (less leaching of nutrients and pollutants into the groundwater) and increases the soil's capacity to retain water. The breakdown products of organic matter are also chelates, which can combine with trace elements to increase their solubility and mobility in the soil and their availability to plants. Organic matter is also an important source of carbon for many soil organisms, which are an active and very important part of the soil. To maintain soil organic matter, we need to add nutrients to the soil. The main important role of organic fertilisation is to maintain or replenish the humus. For organic farming, 3 to 4% organic matter is recommended.

The P content in the soil samples of the 2015–2023 period is most frequently (too) low in the upper soil layers of extensive orchards (3.4), very low in the soils of olive groves (7.2), meadows (5.2) and pastures (3.5), below optimum in orchards (11.5) and vineyards (9.6), and suitable in fields (19.5 - all contents are expressed in mg/100g of air-dry soil). Some (significantly) higher average values (arithmetic means) indicate a smaller number of sites oversupplied with P.

For K, soils of olive groves (26.9), meadows (18.6) and pastures (22.0) are adequately stocked, while contents are elevated in fields (25.7) and vineyards (25.2). For K, some higher average values also indicate a smaller number of sites that are oversupplied with K.

Soil organic matter content (SOM) is suitable in soils of fields (4.3%), orchards (3.8%), as expected good in soils of grassland (6.2) and lower in olive groves (2.6%) and vineyards (2.7%) due to climatic zone and production method.

Soil acidity is lower in orchards (6.3) and in meadows (6.2), whereas in olive groves acidity is the highest (7.6) due to carbonate soils.

It should be noted that soil fertility includes not only chemical but also physical properties of soil. We have selected four indicators from which it is possible to infer the state of some other soil parameters. For example, it is possible to infer from the organic matter content the content of more stable forms of nitrogen in the soil, soil structure, soil porosity and permeability, retention and purification capacity, drought resistance and other physical, chemical and biotic properties, as well as the ability to provide ecosystem services of the soil. The soil organic matter content in the Slovenian agricultural soils is comparable to values in other countries of similar climatic zones and (very) good compared to Mediterranean EU member states (ESDAC 2010).


Date of data source summarization
Other sources and literature

European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC), (2010) Soil organic carbon — European Environment Agency.
https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/soil-organic-carbon-1/assessment (20. 10. 2023)

Mihelič, R., Čop, J., Jakše, M., Štampar, F., Majer, D., Tojnko, S., Vršič, S., 2010. Smernice za strokovno utemeljeno gnojenje. Republika Slovenija, Ministrstvo za kmetijstvo, gozdarstvo in prehrano, Ljubljana. 

Ustava Republike Slovenije (Uradni list RS, št. 42/97).