The 5 December is the World Soil Day - a good opportunity to promote the importance of healthy soils and their different functions.
The European Commission will propose a ‘mission’ in the area of “Soil health and food” as part of the next research programme Horizon Europe. To this end it has set up a mission board that will work unitl the end of next year to develop its scope and details for implementation. ‘Missions’ are a new instrument for research and innovation and aim to deliver solutions to major challenges facing our world. A mission in the area of soil health and food will raise awareness on the importance of soils, engage with citizens, create knowledge and develop a range of solutions to address the various challenges for soils and soil management in Europe. In implementing the mission, farmers and foresters will have an important role to play. At political level, a mission in the area of soil health and food will contribute to implementing the new priorities of the European Commission (a “Green Deal”) as well as international commitments on climate and sustainable development.
Soils are the very basis for the food we grow as well as for the production of feed, textiles, wood and other materials. They provide us with clean water, host biodiversity, recycle nutrients, regulate climate and are part of our landscapes and cultural heritage. In summary, soils are important for our well-being and to keep terrestrial ecosystems in balance.
Although soils seem “rock-solid”, they are a fragile resource that need to be carefully managed and protected. As population increases, it is demanding more land for food production, urbanisation or for industries. But soils are finite: about one third of our global soils are degraded and it can take up to 1,000 years to produce 1cm of fertile soil.
We need to act together to preserve and restore our soils. Leonardo da Vinci recognised hundreds of years ago that “We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.” We have come a long way since then, but da Vinci’s words remind us that soil processes are highly dynamic and complex and far from fully understood. For example, we need to know more about the effects of climate, other environmental changes on soils and their functions. And we need to find solutions to deal with these changes and manage soils in more sustainable ways.
Follow discussions on the Horizon Europe mission on soil health and food on social media #MissionSoil