Strengthening the world’s long term soil research base

Imagine the science of climatology, if long-running weather stations were uncoordinated and operated independently with little cross-site comparison. Such is the present state of the long-term soils research base. The world’s long-term soil experiments are not well organized or even inventoried, and these studies are unknown to most scientists and to most of humanity. In the coming decades, knowledge gained from long-term soil experiments (LTSEs) will become increasingly important to sustainably produce high-quality food, water, and fiber, and prerequisite to the science of environmental change (Figure 1). The transformation of pedology by anthropedogenesis (Bidwell and Hole 1965, Yaalon and Yaron 1966, Richter 2007) places LTSEs in new light, and make it obvious that they need review, coordination, and expansion.

A number of society’s most important scientific questions involve the future of Earth’s soils, and the world’s long-term soils research will be important to resolving these questions as well.

Three most pressing questions are:
• Can soils more than double food production in a few decades, all while minimizing adverse effects on the wider environment?
• How can land management improve soil’s processing of nutrients, organic matter,wastes, toxics, and water?

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