The Italian legislation on contaminated soils does not include the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) and this deficiency has important consequences for the sustainable management of agricultural soils. The present research compares the results of two ERA procedures applied to agriculture (i) one based on the “substance-based” approach and (ii) a second based on the “matrix-based” approach. In the former the soil screening values (SVs) for individual substances were derived according to institutional foreign guidelines. In the latter, the SVs characterizing the whole-matrix were derived originally by the authors by means of experimental activity. The results indicate that the “matrix-based” approach can be efficiently implemented in the Italian legislation for the ERA of agricultural soils. This method, if compared to the institutionalized “substance based” approach is (i) comparable in economic terms and in testing time, (ii) is site specific and assesses the real effect of the investigated soil on a battery of bioassays, (iii) accounts for phenomena that may radically modify the exposure of the organisms to the totality of contaminants and (iv) can be considered sufficiently conservative.