Global Soil Partnership

ITPS | Soil letters

The series of the ITPS soil letters aim to provide to the general public concise and clear information on one topic linked to the work and activities led by the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS).  It is planned to publish about 8 letters per year. This series are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the FAO’s Strategic Objectives and contributes to the efforts of ending hunger, malnutrition, climate change adaptation, land degradation and overall sustainable development.

Towards a definition of soil health

Year of publication: September, 2020
Place of publication: Rome, Italy
Author: FAO/ Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils
Publisher: FAO

Abstract: The Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) defines soil health as “the ability of the soil to sustain the productivity, diversity, and environmental services of terrestrial ecosystems”. In managed systems, soil health can be maintained, promoted or recovered through the implementation of sustainable soil management practices. As with human health, there is no single measure that captures all aspect of soil health. The preservation of these soil services requires avoiding and/or combating all types of soil degradation.

English | FAO card




Soil organic carbon and nitrogen: Reviewing the challenges for climate change mitigation and adaptation in Agri-food systems

Year of publication: March, 2021
Place of publication: Rome, Italy
Author: FAO/ Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils
Publisher: FAO

Abstract: Carbon and nitrogen participate directly in a wide variety of soil processes that are key to the food system and for the provision of ecosystem services. Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the main indicator of soil health and constitutes the backbone of the molecules that, together with nitrogen, build soil organic matter (SOM), which is responsible for much of the multifunctional nature of soils, optimizing soil health and productivity. Furthermore, the use of reactive nitrogen in agriculture is essential for plant growth and food security. However, the adverse effects of nitrogen use in agriculture impose global challenges that add to other major challenges such as global population growth, urban expansion, dietary shifts, climate change and soil degradation. 

English | FAO card


Salt-affected soils are a global issue

Year of publication: May, 2021
Place of publication: Rome, Italy
Author: FAO/ Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils
Publisher: FAO

Abstract: Naturally saline or sodic soils host valuable ecosystems, including a range of rare plants, that are adapted to the extreme conditions. However, salt-affected soils may develop quickly in response to human activities. Soils may thus become affected by salinity and sodicity due to inappropriate management or through saline water intrusion from sea, river or groundwater and undergo a rapid decline of health, losing their capacity for biomass production, natural filtration, carbon sequestration and other necessary ecosystem functions.

English | FAO card







Spectroscopy: towards eco and human-friendly soil analysis

Year of publication: September, 2021
Place of publication: Rome, Italy
Author: FAO/ Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils
Publisher: FAO

Abstract: A study conducted by the FAO Global Soil Laboratory Network (GLOSOLAN) showed that most standard chemical analyses have medium or high risks to human health, can contribute to environmental pollution and are often costly, requiring a range of different equipment and chemicals. These issues can mostly be avoided through the development of quicker and less expensive detection methods. This letter aims to show how spectroscopy can offer a fast, reliable, and environmental-friendly method to provide the large soil information databases necessary for decision making in sustainable agricultural systems.

English | FAO card