Update: 08.12.2017

In a handful of fertile soil, there are more individual organisms than the total number of human beings that have ever existed.

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The three favourite soil science books of:

Gergely Tóth (Hungary)

1.
Proceedings of the First International Conference in Agrogeology. Royal Hungarian Geological Institute, Budapest, 1909
Original title: Comptes Rendus de la Première Conférence Internationale Agrogéologique
Institute Géologique du Royaume De Hongrie, Budapest 1909.

Inspiring and relaxing

This book teaches me many aspects of soil science. But not only that. With stories from the early days of its independent life it also teaches how to think about soil science.
It’s a treasure in its each part. Large shares of the discussion minutes could have been noted down in a recent meeting, while each scientific paper opens up and tries to solve issues of current relevance. For example a system-based evaluation of weathering processes including characterization by climate types (Treitz) is something that todays’ soilcritzone studies try to pick up. The paper on site specific management with a mention of the importance to prepare soil maps for its support (Leplace) presents a topic that has even increasing significance. The ‘Unification of methods of chemical soil analysis’ (Hilgard) is another masterpiece from which we can learn not only the early development of soil analytical methods, the how-s, but also the why-s.

This book is inspiring for me: Like all authors try to put their theme into a wider context, I should also try to think about soils not only in their inherent complexity, but in their relationship to other compartments of nature and culture as well.

This book is a very relaxing reading too: It ensures us, soils scientists, that we are not late from anything. The greatest minds in the last century left behind quite some bits of well-known issues, which were first raised in 1909, to be resolved. We, the unworthy posteriors can also spend our lives on these issues.

2.
European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity. Jeffery, S., Gardi, C., Jones, A., Montanarella, L., Marmo, L., Miko, L., Ritz, K., Peres, G., Röbke and van der Putten, W.H. (eds.) European Commission. Publication Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2010.

Informative and entertaining

Sometimes I used to think about how to make soil science attractive to anybody interested in the secrets of the living planet. Now I do not need to think further, here is a book that does it.
This book is the favorite of my kids too, but I do not feel ashamed to admit that I learned a great deal from it myself as well.

3.
Soil Science I-II. Agricultural Publishing House, Beijing 1983
Original title: Turanxue (shang/xia ban) turannongyehua zhuanye yong. Beijing 1983

Well balanced and enlightening

This two-volume textbook was written for university students with specialization in soil science and agrochemistry (as its subtitle explicitly says it). Therefore it aims comprehensiveness, which is elegantly achieved.
The first volume lays down the basics (mineralogy, organic matter, ion exchange, chemical reactions, porosity and structure, soil water, soil air, thermal characteristics, nutrients) and opens to issues such as contamination and land management.
The second volume is dedicated to soil genesis, classification and the introduction and systematic characterization of soil types of China and the world with discussion of their main utilization alternatives.
The above components are ideal for the formation (print) of this book.
The handwritten notes and comments – in my copy – originate from the second distinct phase of its genesis: the time when I attended the university course which this book supports.
The increasingly shabby look is the result of the maturing phase in the book’s development: the post-course cultivation. The latest changes are the ultimate proofs for keeping a special place for this book on my bookshelf.

Gergely Tóth
European Commission, Joint Research Centre