The soil is alive! As soil scientists move away from black box approaches towards a deeper understanding of soil processes, it becomes ever more difficult to think of soil as dirt or as a mere substrate for food production.
The Living Soil
Soil organisms and the processes they perform are intrinsically connected with soil physics and chemistry, driving soil functions that go beyond food production. Tonight, soil biologists Giulia Bongiorno and Thom Kuyper shed light on the evolution of soil quality concepts from its early development to current times. Can soil multifunctionality be a component in environmental quality? And how can we understand the dramatic impact humans have on soil functions?
Is it the duty of soil scientists to act together with farmers, policy makers, and other societal actors in order to defend soils and contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? After all, do we not need to shape the future of our land by working together with the same organisms that create a living soil?
About lecture series Soil! What lies beneath your feet?
Soil, earth, ground, dirt, dust, mud, humus, filth. Many names for the matter that lies beneath our feet, but what is soil? And is the idea of soil subject to change? In this series we dig through the myriads of ways in which soil is interpreted, understood, and represented. We muddle through the arts, politics, and sciences of soil in order to uncover the unknown worlds beneath (y)our feet.
About Giulia Bongiorno
Giulia Bongiorno obtained a bachelor’s degree in Plant Production and Protection at the University of Milan in 2012. During her master degree in Plant pathology and Entomology at Wageningen University (WUR), Giulia developed an interest for the role of soil biota in agriculture, and in monitoring and counteracting the negative effects of intensive agricultural practices on soil biota. Giulia focused on this topic during her PhD from 2015 to 2020, which was part of the European project iSQAPER and a collaboration between the Soil Biology group (SBL) at WUR and FIBL (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture) in Switzerland. Her work during these years ignited her interest in the role of agriculture in the broader economic and societal context. Giulia is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in SBL, and as coordinator of the WUR Soil Science Cluster.
About Thomas W. Kuyper
Thomas W. Kuyper is emeritus professor Soil Biology, with a focus of the role of fungi in the functioning of soil ecosystems. He has worked on soils in both temperate and tropical regions, both in natural ecosystems and agro-ecosystems. He has a special interest in the role of humans in soil improvement, as shown most clearly in the human-made Amazonian Dark Earths (Terra Preta de Índio). He has participated in several interdisciplinary programmes to bring a soil’s perspective to the Sustainable Development Goals.