Soiling the mind? No, it is like cleaning the vision.

International Year Soils_Year

This interview will clean your mind about the soil that feeds the world. Read what Soil Experts say on the occasion of GlobalSoil Week 2015

1. What are some of the challenges our soils are facing today? In your opinion, what is the most serious one?
“The most serious challenge we are facing is soil degradation. Soil degradation does not only mean soil erosion but also soil compaction. After this, we must consider the decline in organic carbon and reduction in biodiversity. What we also have to take into consideration are the effects of the mismanagement of land and lack of site-adjusted land use and machinery application, both in agriculture and forestry. This leads to compaction, soil reduction and an increase in erosion which all end in global change effects.”
Professor Rained Horn, President of IUSS (International Union of Soil Sciences)
“I would say the opinion of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils matters more than mine! This panel, which I am chairing, is part of FAO’s Global Soil Partnership (GSP). We have just concluded the debate on what is the most serious threat to soil at world level, in the framework of the Report on the Status of World Soil Resources. What emerged is that soil erosion is still the most important issue followed by decline in soil organic carbon and nutrient imbalance in many parts of the world.
Luca Montanarella, Senior Expert, Land Resources Management, European Commission
“Our soils are facing multiple challenges such as degradation, nutrient depletion, carbon depletion, acidity, salinization and so on. All of these are reducing soil productivity but at the same time soils and agricultural land are also lost due to urbanization, deforestation and so on. The most serious threat to soils is land degradation. Unless this is controlled, we will reach a stage where food insecurity will prevail in many countries and we will reach a crisis.”
Professor Tekalign Mamo, Minister’s Advisor (State Advisor), Ministry of Agriculture Ethiopia
2. What countermeasures can be adopted to face soil erosion and other challenges?
“You definitely need to implement sustainable soil management technologies. I think there are plenty of them; the problem is that they are not well documented. There is a real need to prepare precise guidelines for sustainable soil management to be used at all levels; at policy-making level but also at local level by local land users, so we can reverse soil degradation processes, particularly soil erosion. These measures are well known but need to documented and distributed at local level. This will involve efforts in language translation, for example. This approach is the same for other challenges such as the decline in soil organic carbon and nutrient imbalance.”
Luca Montanarella, Senior Expert, Land Resources Management, European Commission
“I think the countermeasures are very well understood. Keeping good crop residue on the field is the main counter measure to soil erosion but there are economic and social barriers to its adoption. It’s an example where we know what the solution is but for a variety of reasons that solution is not adopted.”
Dan Pennock, Acting Associate Dean, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
3. The International Year of Soils (IYS) has triggered many soil activities in many countries and soils are in the news. What can we do to ensure continuity and momentum beyond 2015?
“We obviously have to start with education from a very early level, even from kindergarten. This is the most important part because this is our future. We need to get access to students in schools and universities. We also need to gain access to politicians. Scientists have a lot of ideas but politicians don’t listen or, I should say, they don’t ask! We need more interaction between these groups, also from farmers and foresters, but especially from politicians. We need to communicate and convince them that what we are doing is right for them.”
Professor Rained Horn, President of IUSS (International Union of Soil Sciences)
“This is a very big challenge because 2015 should be a turning point so we should talk about soil protection before 2015 and soil protection after 2015 and there should be a difference. What can make the difference? This is the big question… I hope that the IYS will trigger the necessary awareness particularly at national policy-making level to initiate a new process in all countries for establishing national soil protection programmes, particularly introducing sustainable soil management systematically at all levels of administration. This is of course a dream… What I think will mostly happen is that we will have an implementation phase of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) and the 5 Pillars of Action that will mostly be done at regional level and could be a trigger for sustainable soil management at other levels, particularly local.”
Luca Montanarella, Senior Expert, Land Resources Management, European Commission
” The points raised about education are key. I think we need to work very hard to embed soils in the educational curriculum in many countries. That’s how we can ensure that everyone in the future, farmers right through to policy makers and presidents of countries understand the importance of soils. I’m an educator myself so I think that is very key.”
Dan Pennock, Acting Associate Dean, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
“This is an important issue. The soil issue is not a once off issue. As long as human beings exist, healthy soils should also exist to support life. Therefore, we have to make sure that all these soil initiatives are sustained and continue until we achieve healthy soils for healthy life across the world. We have to keep on pushing the agenda, promoting the agenda.”
Professor Tekalign Mamo, Minister’s Advisor (State Advisor), Ministry of Agriculture Ethiopia
4. What is one word that comes to mind when you think of soils?
“Multi- disciplinary processes”
Professor Rained Horn, President of IUSS (International Union of Soil Sciences)
“Life!”
Luca Montanarella, Senior Expert, Land Resources Management, European Commission
“Life!”
Dan Pennock, Acting Associate Dean, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
“Resource base for survival”
Professor Tekalign Mamo, Minister’s Advisor (State Advisor), Ministry of Agriculture Ethiopia

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