Date of this Version
Sustainability 2015, 7, 988-1027
Our objective is to provide an optimistic strategy for reversing soil degradation by increasing public and private research efforts to understand the role of soil biology, particularly microbiology, on the health of our world’s soils. We begin by defining soil quality/soil health (which we consider to be interchangeable terms), characterizing healthy soil resources, and relating the significance of soil health to agroecosystems and their functions. We examine how soil biology influences soil health and how biological properties and processes contribute to sustainability of agriculture and ecosystem services. We continue by examining what can be done to manipulate soil biology to: (i) increase nutrient availability for production of high yielding, high quality crops; (ii) protect crops from pests, pathogens, weeds; and (iii) manage other factors limiting production, provision of ecosystem services, and resilience to stresses like droughts. Next we look to the future by asking what needs to be known about soil biology that is not currently recognized or fully understood and how these needs could be addressed using emerging research tools. We conclude, based on our perceptions of how new knowledge regarding soil biology will help make agriculture more sustainable and productive, by recommending research emphases that should receive first priority through enhanced public and private research in order to reverse the trajectory toward global soil degradation.