USDA Agricultural Research Service --Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published in Soil Management: Building a Stable Base for Agriculture (2011) 391-394. DOI:10.2136/2011.soilmanagement.c25


Soil provides a number of important functions, including agronomic and biomass productivity, purifying water, biodegradation of pollutants, regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission from the soil surface, and providing a foundation for civil and urban structures. This is a wide range of functions, but the most critical function for humanity is providing the fundamental resource for the production of the food, feed, fiber, and fuel required to sustain the ever-increasing human population. In the history of agriculture, there has never been a time in which the importance of proper management of the soil resource has been more critical. Jenny (1980) pointed out that the functions of soil represent the diverse capabilities of soil and the multiple purposes of soil in answering a variety of human needs, from food to shelter.

The increase of the world’s population from 6 to 9 billion over the next 30 to 40 years requires that the soil resource be carefully managed to increase the world’s food supply. This has to be done in the face of an ever-degrading soil resource and an increasing variation in climatic resources and uncertainty in precipitation. The management of the soil resource to achieve this level of production will require that we better understand how soil responds to various practices. Within this volume we have assembled information to help establish a knowledge base to guide how we can cope with these challenges in providing a secure food supply in the face of a changing climate.