Last week, the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) launched an online platform as a contribution to the International Year of the soil. This platform Growing Smart Together 'contains a collage of 40 video interviews of scientists, farmers, policy makers, NGOs and industry representatives. In those interviews, they address the importance of soil for the sustainable intensification of food production and achieve food security. The also discuss the role of soils in other essential ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and thus climate mitigation. One of the interviewees is Alterra researcher Wim de Vries.
He stresses that soils have too long been overlooked as our key natural capital, implying that protection of air and water has gained more attention than protection of soil functions. Those soil functions include food production, climate change adaptation (water retention) and mitigation (carbon sequestration) and a filter function, by retention of water and nutrients, adsorption and decay of toxic compounds and buffering of acidity. As an example, he mentions soil acidification in China, where nitrogen overuse without liming leads to pH decline with potential large effects on crop yield and also crop quality due to metal release, especially cadmium.
De Vries also discusses the role of scientist in supporting farmers, going from an indirect role (science to be used by farmer advisers), to transdisciplinary research in which scientist are involved in research projects with various stakeholders including farmers that deliver data and get advice.