Soil capital- our last rampart to address climate change, food security & reaping societal challenges

Abad Chabbi

INRA, Ecosys, 78850, Thiverval-Grignon,

INRA, URP3F, 86600 Lusignan, France &

The 21st century has come with drastic environmental, social and economic changes that need real world solutions. By the middle of this century anthropogenic pressures will have caused additional change to the globe and all its inhabitants. While technological changes are occurring at a rapid pace, globalization has brought about both possibilities, but also environmental problems which are reaching or have reached a tipping point. For instance, soil capital resources and sustainability are drastically affected. More than 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classed as either degraded or seriously degraded. Because of poor management and intensive conventional farming methods that strip the soil of carbon, soil resources is being lost at between 10 and 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished. There are two key issues. One is the loss of soil productivity (e.g. 30% less food over the next 20-50 years). Second, water will reach a crisis point that will further accentuate tensions among farmers and fuel local conflict, with potential geopolitical subregional implications. Taken together, this is a potent new cocktail, we need to redefine our relationship to the soil system and especially review radically our economic model and wealth indicators. In other words, the concept of exponential growth in a world of finite resources is no longer sustainable. We need to recognize that this is a global problem that would benefit from a global approach. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in each country, and we don’t have time to do so. We just need to considerer reliable systems as quickly as possible that substantially rewards any effort to preserve the soil capital. Changing the way, the soil is managed, can have a clear influence on the amount of carbon that the soil can hold with big impact on global warming and food security.

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