Sustainable soil health

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


Soil is nature's support medium for plant growth. Soils on only 12 % of Earth's land area possess the physical requirements to function as cropland. However, one-fourth of this land is now moderately to severely degraded. Soil health is a measure of how well soil functions in retaining water and nutrients to support robust plant growth. Soil degradation, on the other hand, is any process that lowers the soil's food-producing capacity. Biotechnologies for crop improvement will have little impact if crops must be grown on degraded soils. Even when water and fertilizer are available, agricultural use of degraded soils often results in inefficient resource use and off-site pollution. Soil quality, a term sometimes used interchangeably with soil health, applies specifically to observable or measurable soil properties that indicate soil health. Although arable soils around the world differ in inherent properties that determine potential productivity, each soil has alterable properties that can be managed to sustain high productivity into the future. Alterable properties include soil organic matter content, root and microbial density, and macroporosity, all of which are highly dependent on maintaining biological diversity and activity in the soil. Because alterable properties undergo drastic changes when native vegetation is removed and land is disturbed for crop production, sustainable soil health involves restoring biological integrity through proper management. This chapter describes how soils are formed, why soils vary in productivity, and how soil health can be improved through diversified cropping, use of organic amendments, and soil management practices that promote beneficial root-microbe interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPlant Biotechnology
Subtitle of host publicationExperience and Future Prospects
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783319057712
ISBN (Print)3319068911, 9783319057705
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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