NSP - Agriculture and Soil Health

Agriculture, and society in general, is challenged to develop strategies for sustainability that conserve non-renewable natural resources such as soil. Much attention has been paid in recent decades to mitigating soil erosion through physical conservation measures and to providing supplementary nutrients and water to meet crop needs. Less consideration has been paid to the soil as a dynamic living resource, although its condition is vital to both the production of food and fibre and to global balance and ecosystem function. The quality and health of soil determine agriculture sustainability, environmental quality and, as a consequence of both - plant, animal and human health.

Soil health concerns the ability of soil to perform or function according to its potential, and to changes over time due to human use and management or to natural events. Soil health is enhanced by management and land-use decisions that consider the multiple functions of soil. It is impaired by decisions which focus only on single functions, such as crop productivity. The time scale is an important consideration as seasonal and yearly changes in crop/land use patterns can be effectively managed to compensate for changes in soil condition and to restore a healthy functioning soil. Without maintenance of biodiversity, the soil's capacity to recover from natural or anthropogenic perturbations may well be reduced. Similarly, maintenance of the soil's capacity to perform functional processes such as those associated with nutrient cycling and the breakdown of organic matter are important if the soil is to be able to sustain plant growth in the long-term.

Back to Agriculture and Soil Biodiversity