News Bites

    Raising awareness of the importance of soil on World Soil Day 2015

    News

    This Saturday 5th December is World Soil Day (WSD) 2015. Often overlooked, soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fibre production and for services to ecosystems and human well-being. We need it to grow crops, protect biodiversity and to ensure water quality and supply.

    Recognising this, we continuously work with our farmers to ensure best practices for soil protection are implemented in our supply chains. An example of this is our onion and tomato operations in California, USA, where we ensure soil health through crop rotation with different plant root systems. In doing so, nutrients are conserved and re-introduced, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilisers.

    In our latest Transcending Boundaries contribution, Norman Uphoff, Professor Emeritus of Government and International Agriculture at Cornell University and Senior Advisor to the SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice), calls attention to the crucial importance of soil.

    “Hunger,” he says, “is like a huge anchor that impedes the forward progress of economies, societies and cultures, and it can precipitate disastrous political instability and human migrations. Yet the solution may just be under our feet, if we are prepared to look beyond and below to the invisible life of soil.” Discussing the challenges of modern agricultural practices, he highlights solutions in productive, low-cost, climate-smart alternatives such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), for work on which the SRI-Rice team at Cornell won the inaugural Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security earlier this year.

    Norman Uphoff has been on the Government and International Agriculture faculty since 1970, after completing his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. For almost 20 years he chaired Cornell’s multidisciplinary Rural Development Committee; and in 1990 he became director of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development. This experience over the next 15 years drew him increasingly into agricultural concerns, and from 1993 on his engagement with SRI developed in Madagascar involved him with agroecology and particularly soil biology.

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