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Title: Soil: The forgotten piece of the water, food, energy nexus

item Hatfield, Jerry
item Sauer, Thomas - Tom
item CRUSE, RICHARD - Iowa State University

Submitted to: Advances in Agronomy
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/15/2017
Publication Date: 5/15/2017
Citation: Hatfield, J.L., Sauer, T.J., Cruse, R.M. 2017. Soil: The forgotten piece of the water, food, energy nexus. Advances in Agronomy. 143:1-46. doi: 10.1016/bs.agron.2017.02.001.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The water, food, energy nexus has prompted sustainability concerns as interactions between these interdependent human needs is degrading natural resources required for a secure future world. Discussions about the future needs for food, water, and energy to support the increasing world population have ignored our soil resource that is the cornerstone or our capacity to produce food, capture water, and generate energy from biological systems. Soil scientists often recognize soils as a critical component of food, energy, or water security; however, the translation of that awareness into action strategies to either enhance public recognition of soil resource importance or to improve soil management is lacking. Food, water, and energy security represents the current and future challenge of sustaining humankind while protecting the environment. These interactions are recognized by scientists but the linkage to policy decisions or implementation of strategies to create positive outcomes for food, energy, or water enhancement is lacking. If we consider that soil is responsible for 99% of the world’s food production then the importance of soil in the food, energy, water nexus becomes apparent. If we further consider that soil erosion is the major factor affecting soil degradation and declines in productivity are directly related to degradation of the soil resource, then the implications of soil in the context of increasing food, energy, and water security becomes more evident. However, if the attitude is one that technology will provide answers to these problems then the soil degradation rate will continue to increase and we will reach a tipping point in which technological advances will not be able to overcome the impacts of a reduced topsoil depth coupled with a more variable climate. Soil is the forgotten piece of the food, energy, water nexus; however, the oversight extends beyond this nexus to include many of the ecological services required by humankind.