NEW BOOK CHAPTER: Future Challenges for Soil Science Research, Education, and Soil Survey in the USA

Posted: November 18, 2016

This new book highlights the anniversary of soil science in the United States. Soils are a critical and often unappreciated resource because they are belowfoot and mostly out of sight. This book brings to you a comprehensive overview of the diversity, beauty, and vital importance of soils to ecosystems, agriculture , forestry, and urban infrastructure. It is intended to be a reference and learning tool that will enhance your knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the soil resources in the USA. Soil supports all terrestrial life forms, and performs functions critical to the well-being of the global population including nutrient and water storage and supply for plant growth, partitioning of precipitation into ground and surface waters, disposal and renovation of anthropogenic wastes, habitat for soil organisms, and support for roads, buildings, and other infrastructure. Soils are a major reservoir of global carbon and can, with proper management, serve as a sink for atmospheric carbon to reduce greenhouse gasses. Soils are relatively resilient, but are subject to degradation if managed improperly. Only by understanding the properties of and processes occurring in the soil, can the soil resource be conserved and sustained for continued support of the Earth’s population. -L. T. West , M. J. Singer, A. E. Hartemink
Plateville, WI, 2013

Plateville, WI, 2013

Soils across the USA are under extensive pressure to support the needs of society under an uncertain climate future. While our management of soils is far better than 100 years ago, chronic erosion in excess of soil building is common and human behavior frequently results in soil degradation. At odds with a need for improved soil management is a two-decade trend in the closure or downsizing of soil science academic programs and federal soil scientist positions, all of which threaten our capability to manage soils. Regardless, soil scientists must lead efforts to greatly minimize land degradation (especially erosion) and reshape American agriculture to adapt to climate change so that we secure current achievements in land management, food supply, and quality of life. New models of soil science education and training must be embraced in order to maintain and build the profession. An extensive and ubiquitous public education effort, much greater than that which ended the “Dust Bowl,” is needed to help correct harmful human behavior resulting in unsustainable soil use and degradation of ecosystem services. These are the achievements that must be realized during the next 50 years of soil science.