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Not many people stop to think about the earth beneath their feet but on World Soil Day scientists at The James Hutton Institute say it is one of the world’s most valuable assets and one we should treasure.
World Soil Day is an annual celebration on 5 December which aims to highlight the importance of soil to societies across the world and the need to use it sustainably. At The James Hutton Institute we undertake a wide range of soil-related research and are mentoring the next generation of soil scientists.
Soil’s most widely recognised function is supporting plant growth, whether agricultural crops, trees or native habitats but it is increasingly being recognised for other environmental benefits such as climate regulation (greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage), water flow regulation (flood control) and as the largest terrestrial reservoir of biodiversity.
As the world’s population continues to grow we face a huge challenge in managing our soils sustainably to produce more food from less land. Understanding soils and how they affect crops is essential for the sustainable intensification of agriculture across the world.
Most of the untapped potential in crops lies in the roots below the surface. Roots have been studied less than shoots and leaves simply because they are out of sight, out of mind and more difficult to monitor. However at The James Hutton Institute we have a strong team of researchers examining how roots and soil interact with targeted outcomes including better plant nutrient uptake to help improve yield.
Yield can also be increased by improving soil conditions and we are seeking alternative nutrient sources, finding ways to lock up more carbon in soil, assessing the benefits of different management systems and monitoring soil conditions for crop production; all of this in a changing climate.
Work on improving crop production is just one small area of research conducted at The James Hutton Institute as we have a host of experts working on soil forensics, land capability, soil surveying and monitoring to name but a few.
The one thing they have in common is they recognise the value of our soils so next time you are out for a walk take time to stop and think of all the wonderful activity going on beneath your feet; we'd be more than just lost without it.
More information from: Lorraine Wakefield, Press, Media and External Relations Coordinator, The James Hutton Institute, Tel: 01382 568749 (direct line) or 0844 928 5428 (switchboard).
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