Ag Policy Blog

Groups Recognize World Soil Day

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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As the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the FAO, officially recognizes World Soil Day this year, more U.S. groups are highlighting soil health and the recognizing World Soil Day in different ways.

Kansas State University noted World Soil Day has been held since 2002 when the International Union of Soil Sciences made a resolution proposing its creation. Dec. 5 is the day recognized for recognizing all the soil provides.

The FAO passed a resolution earlier this year to formally recognize World Soil Day, thus raising the profile of events to raise more awareness about the importance of soil around the world.

Farm Foundation, NFP and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation announced Tuesday they are joining forces an initiative to bring attention to soil health and the importance of soil in meeting the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

"Soil health is a key factor in any agricultural production system, whether conventional or organic, yet soil is too often ignored or overshadowed by other factors," says Noble Foundation President Bill Buckner. "It is critical that producers-the people working directly with the land-be in close communication with researchers and policymakers to ensure that their challenges are recognized and our soils are protected and sustained for future generations."

According to the two foundations, a committee of 25 people from various stakeholders is examining the best tools to measure, promote and research soil health. The group will define a standard for measuring soil health; identify opportunities for specific research work; prepare a white paper outlining the current state of soil health; and develop a strategic plan to broadly advance work on soil health issues.

One of four working groups in the initiative has already agreed on a definition for soil health: The continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service now uses that definition, said Working Group Chair David Lindbo, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University and president of the Soil Science Society of America. "It sounds simple, but establishing a basis of understanding of what soil health concerns is the first step to move forward with universal acceptance of soil health as a critical need."

The working group identifying a standard of measure for soil health is expected to complete its work on or before Feb. 1, 2014. A strategic plan for addressing soil health issues is expected to be completed on or before April 2, 2014. Once this foundational work is completed, deadlines will be established for the remaining work groups.

"We need to recognize that soil is a common denominator for productive agricultural systems," said Farm Foundation President Neil Conklin. "With a foundational base of defining soil health and standard measurements for soil health, we can move forward to build research plans and discuss potential public policies that enhance soil health moving forward."

In a release from SSSA, Lindbo added, “Soil is one of the world’s most neglected resources."

In a separate release, Kansas State University agronomists highlighted the importance of soil to Kansas agriculture.

“Soil should be treated like royalty by all of us – protected and nourished,” Gary Pierzynski, professor and head of the department of agronomy at Kansas State University. “Soil is a finite natural resource and cannot be replaced in our lifetime once it is lost to dust storms, water runoff, or pollution.”

The purpose of World Soil Day is to draw attention to this vibrant, non-renewable resource that surrounds all of us on land, said Chuck Rice, K-State university distinguished professor of agronomy.

“Looking at the soil from a broad perspective, there is not much of it – just a few inches to a few feet in depth over most of the Earth’s land. And once it is lost, we’ll have lost it forever. The soil is literally a thin line between prosperity and peril for all of us,” Rice said.

Agriculture is the largest economic driver in Kansas, valued at more than $33 billion, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s most recent Farm Facts.

“All of this illustrates the economic importance of the soil to the Kansas economy since soil is the foundation of agriculture. Once our valuable topsoil in Kansas is lost, it takes millions of years to generate more of it,” Pierzynski said.

SSSA put together a blog with details about soil health, erosion, degradation issues and ways climate change affects soils.…

For more information on World Soil Day 2013, see:….

USDA came up with a novel effort to celebrate the day. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has a mascot, "Sammy Soil." Sammy will be on Twitter from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. CST on Thursday for a live chat. Send soil questions to @USDA_NRCS. Be sure to use the #WorldSoilDay and #SammySoil hashtags, too.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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