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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Agricultural Accomplishments and Impending Concerns

Authors
item Wienhold, Brian
item Power, J - RET USDA ARS (DECEASED)
item Doran, John

Submitted to: Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 11, 2000
Publication Date: January 30, 2000
Citation: WIENHOLD, B.J., POWER, J.F., DORAN, J.W. AGRICULTURAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND IMPENDING CONCERNS. SOIL SCIENCE 165:13-30. 2000.

Interpretive Summary: The thin layer of soil on the earth#s surface performs many functions essential to life. Humankind has known of this resources# importance for thousands of years but formal study of soils began in the 1800's using knowledge acquired in the basic sciences of physics, chemistry, and biology. Over the last 100 years soil science research has accomplished much, providing us with a thorough understanding of the physical, chemical and biological properties and processes of soils; determining the role of soils in environmental quality; and developing management practices to produce a bountiful food supply. Soil scientists are currently facing a number of challenges. A steady supply of inexpensive, high quality food produced by less than 2% of a largely urban population has left the majority of people with little appreciation for the problems and challenges facing agriculture. Competing interests for budget resources have left funding for agricultural research constant or in decline during recent years. And the current crisis in agriculture has resulted in a lower market share being returned to farmers than ever before, leaving producers with little incentive or flexibility to change management practices. Soil scientists must work with these challenges to insure that the science is available to address critical problems facing society namely: population increase and the need for increasing agricultural productivity, competing uses for land and water resources, dependence on non-renewable resources, and environmental quality especially in developing countries. Facing current challenges and solving future problems will likely require that soil scientists do research differently than in the past with greater emphasis on team- and inter-disciplinary research.

Technical Abstract: The thin layer of soil on the earth#s surface performs many functions essential to life. Humankind has known of this resources# importance for thousands of years but formal study of soils began in the 1800's using knowledge acquired in the basic sciences of physics, chemistry, and biology. Over the last 100 years soil science research has accomplished much, providing us with a thorough understanding of the physical, chemical and biological properties and processes of soils; determining the role of soils in environmental quality; and developing management practices to produce a bountiful food supply. Soil scientists are currently facing a number of challenges. A steady supply of inexpensive, high quality food produced by less than 2% of a largely urban population has left the majority of people with little appreciation for the problems and challenges facing agriculture. Competing interests for budget resources have left funding for agricultural research constant or in decline during recent years. And the current crisis in agriculture has resulted in a lower market share being returned to farmers than ever before, leaving producers with little incentive or flexibility to change management practices. Soil scientists must work with these challenges to insure that the science is available to address critical problems facing society namely: population increase and the need for increasing agricultural productivity, competing uses for land and water resources, dependence on non-renewable resources, and environmental quality especially in developing countries. Facing current challenges and solving future problems will likely require that soil scientists do research differently than in the past with greater emphasis on team- and inter-disciplinary research.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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