Soil Science and the Global Grand Challenges

climate change

Soil Science: to those unfamiliar, it is an obscure concept. From the outside, the study of soil appears to be something very specific, and the fruits of research and technological developments don’t get the news coverage of other sciences. But in fact, soil science plays an immense role on a global scale. Afterall, you can’t have environmental science, horticulture or agricultural engineering without having soil. In this month’s Soil Science Online Blog, we take a look at the challenges soil science helps tackle, such as world hunger, water quality and climate change.

Soil science and world hunger

Think about where food comes from and where it’s grown—usually in the ground, right? Therefore, when researchers and scientists are developing new ways to combat issues in hunger, malnutrition or food shortages, they frequently look right to the source, soil. Approaching global food supply issues from the perspective of soil helps agricultural scientists and farmers think about crop production in a different way.

When soil science is considered, crops can become more sustainable, or new methodology of planting and harvest can be implemented. An important aspect of soil science in food production is the management of soil to avoid erosion and soil degradation. When nutrients are stripped from the soil or the elements blow or wash away fertile soil, crops and agriculture suffer. This is why it’s so crucial for soil scientists to develop ways to protect the land and topsoil used for growing food. When these issues are addressed, great progress is made in solving many of the world’s hunger problems.

Soil science and water quality

Soil and water are much more closely tied than you may think. Consider this: most water on land travels on, over or through soil. Clearly, soil impacts water quality. What can soil scientists do about it? Researchers continually study the effects of chemicals, compounds and minerals in soils on the water quality and the mechanisms for which water and those chemicals are transported through the soil.

Soil science and climate change

Climate change is a matter requiring action, and many scientists look to soil as part of the solution. Soil stores carbon pulled out of the air by plants. Researchers are developing ways to protect and restore soil, so these natural processes can be amplified and encouraged.

With soil science’s significant impact on global issues, it’s a wonder we don’t hear more about this crucial aspect of our environment and landscape. With more institutions and individuals striving to make the world a better place and finding creative solutions to do so, many are turning back to the earth for the answers. If you want to affect change by starting at the most basic foundation, then studying soil science is the gateway you need to influence a number of global issues.

Check back each month as we take a look at different topics in soil science on the Soil Science Online Blog. We’ll answer questions and discuss specific aspects of this crucial field.