Saturday, June 13, 2009

Is soil science in an upswing?

In many countries, soil science has been traditionally associated with agriculture because of the major function of soil as a medium for plant growth. So it was no surprise that the decline in funding for agricultural research worldwide in the last two decades had taken its toll on student enrolment in agricultural sciences including soil science. But there are good signs that soil science is now experiencing an upswing particularly because of its strong link to environmental management and global warming (soil is a major source and sink of carbon) and to recent increased focus on agriculture.

In a recent paper published in Geoderma, Dr. Alfred E. Hartemink of ISRIC in Wageningen, Netherlands, and Prof. Alex McBratney (University of Sydney) think that soil science renaissance (from French word meaning "rebirth") is currentyl taking place "where novel approaches to thought are combined with a revival of ideas from the past." They noted that renewed interest in food, feed, and fuel production and the publication of numerous reports have brought soils back onto the global research agenda.

Recent reports by the United Nations and other international organizations have highlighted the need for up-to-date and fine resolution soil information and the revival of soil research. They cited as examples of key issues that have been discussed in recent publications soil erosion, nutrient depletion, and pollution particularly in relation to environmental degradation, climate change, and world food production. They estimated that about 3.2 billion euro is spent yearly on soil research worldwide. They urge the soil science community to benefit from the current upsurge in soil science.


Hartemink AE and A McBratney. 2008. A soil science renaissance. Geoderma 148: 123-129.

No comments: