Soils fundamental to the future of mankind
The British Society of Soil Science today co-hosted Earth Under Pressure: Maximising the value of soils at The Planet Under Pressure conference with the James 
Hutton Institute, Rothamsted Research and UNEP. Scientists from the James Hutton Institute, joined by distinguished colleagues from around the world, have called for a greater acknowledgement of the
importance of soils in climate change mitigation, global food security and maintaining global biodiversity. They say warning signs about soil conditions
in many regions are “serious”. The international speakers were Dr Diana Wall, of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University; Professor Peter Gregory,
the Chief Executive of East Malling Research; Dr Neil McKenzie Chief of CSIRO Land and Water in Australia; Dr Fredrick Ayuke of the University of Nairobi in Kenya;
and Dr Vikas Sharma, an Associate Professor at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Dr Wall underlined the growth in interest in soil biodiversity. She told the session that the recent surge in soil biodiversity research now means that we
have a much better idea of what soil organisms occur where and why. The focus must now be on how to manage soil biodiversity to improve soil condition. Dr McKenzie said: “We need a global assessment of soil condition that includes mapping, monitoring and forecasting of soils”. Advances in digital techniques
means that we now have the tools to map the state and trends of soil condition in most regions of the world especially where the warning signs are serious”. Vikas Sharma remarked that “poverty is the biggest cause of soil degradation”, which plagues the Jammu and Kashmir region of India. The issues of land tenure
for small-holder farms makes it difficult for new approaches to improve farming to be adopted and leads to greater encroachment on forests. Frederick Ayuke demonstrated the challenges to changing farming practices in Kenya to conserve soils and increase production. Professor Peter Gregory told the meeting that the area of roots (rhizosphere) might offer the best prospects for improving crop yields. “Plants are things
that are just, temporarily, not soil!” Professor Gregory said. He said there was evidence that mixed cropping could improve the quality of soils. He also spoke of the increasing practice of grafting crop plants to existing
root stock: 65% of tomatoes grown in the UK were now being produced in this way. “This is a very exciting time to be a soil scientist,” he told delegates. Link: ... Original press release also linked (below)
Press Release 159. KB (PDF)
Posted: 28/03/2012 By: Professor Paul Bardos