Agricultural soils are in peril. Multiple lines of observational and empirical evidence suggest that we are losing the world’s fertile soils at an alarming rate, worsening the on-going global food crisis. It is increasingly clear that the risk of soil crises driven by erratic precipitation, warming air, and farming mismanagement is coming sooner rather than later. At this critical time, society cannot avoid looking for ways to curb soil crises. We argue that now is the right time for science-based mitigation strategies and new insights to protect soils. We offer four research priority areas that society needs to address. Arresting and reversing the ongoing soil degradation are tantamount to safeguarding humanity and the environment. To the extent that we continue to treat soil crises as a problem for farmers only—not as a global challenge—we only escalate the scale to which the problem will grow in time and complexity.
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M.G. was supported by the award obtained from the 2020 USDA-ARS 1890 Faculty Research Sabbatical Program. M.S.C. was supported by Hatch Project 1024123 “Quantifying Biological Measures of Soil Quality: Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics” and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program “Developing an Affordable Soil Health Test for the Appalachian Region to Incentivize Sustainable Agricultural Production”.
Gebremedhin, Maheteme; Coyne, Mark S.; and Sistani, Karamat R., "How Much Margin Is Left for Degrading Agricultural Soils? The Coming Soil Crises" (2022). Plant and Soil Sciences Faculty Publications. 173.