Taking care of soils since 1924
IUSS Alert 178 (April 2020)

IUSS Alert 178 (April 2020)


COVID-19: The World is One Family

Quarterly Viewpoint from the desk of Rattan Lal, Past President, International Union of Soil Sciences

The global tragedy of COVID-19 necessitates a paradigm shift in the thinking of the scientific community towards addressing future research and education priorities. The general education curricula, at all levels (from primary school to the college and graduate level), must be revisited to enhance focus on the “One Health” concept.

Read more: https://www.iuss.org/media/2020_april_quarterly_viewpoint_iuss.pdf


IUSS Commission 2.5 – signature access to scientific publications

Commission 2.5 would like to draw your attention to this petition, initiated by French scientists and open to all. Many scientific publications directly related to Covid-19 and pandemics have been made freely available, however other important work may not be available. This gesture highlights, independently of the Covid-19 risk, the dependence of scientists on the major scientific publishing houses and their profit margins in a context of decreasing finance throughout the world.

You are kindly invited to read this petition, and sign if you feel concerned by the message: Open the bibliographic databases now! The current COVID-19 crisis requires us to change our habits in order to maintain our activities in a difficult situation. Our petition (https://freeaccesstoscience.wesign.it/en) calls for free access to a tool crucial for understanding the current situation and thinking about the future: the large bibliographic databases, access to which is usually by subscription only. By signing this petition, you will allow us to ask publishers to open their databases transiently


IUSS Bulletin 136 – last call for contributions

The IUSS Secretariat (iuss@umweltbundesamt.at) kindly invites all IUSS members to submit their contributions for our next IUSS Bulletin 136 (to be published in June) at their earliest convenience, but no later than 15 May 2020. In particular, the Secretariat would welcome conference/meeting reports and reports on activities dedicated to the International Decade of Soils (2015-2024), your three favourite soil science books and any other information you would like to share with the international soil science community. Also we would like to give more room to national soil science societies to present their recent activities. Please make sure to send high-resolution photos only together with the copyright information (owner of the photos).


IUSS Presidential Elections 2020 – reminder on call for nominations

The election of the next President of the IUSS is due this year. The appointment of the President represents a total of six years commitment to the Union by serving two years each as President-Elect (2021/22), President (2023/24) and Past-President (2025/26). The Standing Committee on Presidential Elections has defined the respective procedure and the guidelines. Nominations should be made by two accomplished, highly-respected senior soil scientists.

Full nomination documentation should be submitted electronically to Prof. Dr. Rainer Horn (Email: rhorn@soils.uni-kiel.de) by June 1, 2020. A copy should also be sent to iuss@umweltbundesamt.at.

Procedure and guidelines: http://www.iuss.org/media/president_election_full_info_2020.pdf


General News

Nominate candidates for the Philippe Duchaufour Medal

The Philippe Duchaufour medal is awarded every year for distinguished contributions to soil science. Detailed information on the selection process and how to propose a candidate is available on the Awards & Medals section of the EGU website. Nominations for all the medals and awards must be submitted via an online nomination form (https://www.egu.eu/awards-medals/nominations/).

The deadline for submissions is 15 June 2020.

Read more: https://www.egu.eu/awards-medals/proposal-and-selection-of-candidates/


Global soil library will help us better know the living skin of planet Earth

A global initiative led by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has launched the Soil Spectral Calibration Library. The University of Sydney is a founding member of the project.

Soils are the basis of life and while humanity is building extensive genomic libraries there is no comprehensive library of the soils upon which much of life on Earth relies. That gap in human knowledge is being filled with the launch of a global system of universal standards to measure and classify soils across the planet.

Read more: https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/04/23/global-soil-library-understand-living-skin-planet-earth-UN-FAO.html


Internationalization of science / Covid-19

IUBS have published a message from their President, Pr. LS Shashidhara, expensing their concerns and mobilization during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is important to disseminate scientifically correct information and prevent fake news. Therefore on IUBS website there is a link pointing to WHO. However, if you undertake local actions which can be consolidated and shared with all for everyone’s benefits, please send the information to IUBS.

IUBS would like to set up a working group on Pandemics, which can facilitate sharing of information and data for analysis and predictions and increase the world’s preparedness to such pandemic in future. We would come back to you with specific details and seek your suggestions on the same. Meanwhile, do let us know if you have any suggestions on action points that IUBS can take up immediately.

Read more: https://www.iubs.org/about-iubs/statements.html


Rootin’, poopin’ African elephants help keep soil fertile

The iconic wildlife of the African savanna—zebras, gazelles, and other grazers—has for decades been under pressure from some unnatural rivals. Ranchers’ cattle compete with local wildlife for food and water, and they starve much of the soil of nutrients. But a new study suggests wildlife and cattle can coexist—if elephants remain to help distribute nutrients into the soil, via their poop and their habit of knocking over trees. Cattle ranching, which has been intensifying across the savanna, can lead to overgrazing, eroding and impoverishing the soil and helping shrubs invade the grasslands. To investigate the ecological effects of ranching—and the role of elephants in the ecosystem—scientists launched a long-term experiment in 1995 at the Mpala Research Centre in central Kenya.

Read more: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/rootin-poopin-african-elephants-help-keep-soil-fertile#

[From: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Science Policy Report: 15 April 2020]


Study shows universally positive effect of cover crops on soil microbiome

Only a fraction of conventional row crop farmers grow cover crops after harvest, but a new global analysis from the University of Illinois shows the practice can boost soil microbial abundance by 27%. The result adds to cover crops’ reputation for nitrogen loss reduction, weed suppression, erosion control, and more. Although soil microbial abundance is less easily observed, it is a hugely important metric in estimating soil health. A new paper looks for universal patterns among dozens of individual studies.

Read more: https://aces.illinois.edu/news/illinois-study-shows-universally-positive-effect-cover-crops-soil-microbiome

[From: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Science Policy Report: 1 April 2020]


Scientists seek to establish community-driven metadata standards for microbiomes research

In agricultural systems, the proliferation of research on plant and soil microbiomes has been coupled with excitement for the potential that microbiome data may have for the development of novel, sustainable, and effective crop management strategies. While this is an exciting development, as the collective body of microbiome data for diverse crops grows, the lack of consistency in recording data makes it harder for the data to be utilized across research projects. In a recent article published in Phytobiomes Journal, researchers discuss the need for agriculture-specific metadata standards for microbiome research.

Read more: https://phys.org/news/2020-03-scientists-community-driven-metadata-standards-microbiomes.html

[From: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Science Policy Report: 1 April 2020]


International Soil Modeling Consortium – Call for Working Groups

The International Soil Modeling Consortium has put out a call for proposals for working groups to contribute to the work and mission of the ISMC.

Read more: https://soil-modeling.org/news/meetings-reports-publications/march-2020-1

[From: GSBI Newsletter – March 2020]


Present and Future: Five Years into the International Decade of Soils 2015 – 2024

As we approach the halfway point in the International Decade of Soils in 2020 (ISC called it International Decade of Soil Health), we revisit the critical roles that soil plays in realizing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

The International Science Council spoke to Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University. He is also Past President of International Union of Soil Sciences.

Soil health and its sustainable management is critically important in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, and specifically SDG #2 (Zero Hunger), SDG #13 (Climate Action) and SDG #15 (Life on Land),” said Lal. “Furthermore, the health of soil, plants, animals, people and the environment are one and indivisible. Restoration and judicious management of soil health is critical to addressing undernourishment of 821 million people (mostly in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa) and 800 million malnourished people from around the world.”

Read more: https://council.science/current/news/present-and-future-five-years-into-the-international-decade-of-soil-health/


The novelist who loved soil

A biography digs into Pulitzer prizewinner and farming pioneer Louis Bromfield’s life. By David R. Montgomery.

Read more: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01024-1?utm_source=twt_nnc&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=naturenews&sf232899412=1&fbclid=IwAR1_C25YFRW6tdumibrpav_hTfH_VpuE9eDTs5RpFTMGXEXPQydk_W_yrYU


Photo and video contest on soil biodiversity

In the framework of GSOBI20, FAO and the GSP Secretariat is launching a photo and video contest on soil biodiversity. The main objective of this contest is to promote the importance on soil organisms and raise awareness on the urgency of protecting soil biodiversity. The deadline to send your submission/s is 30 June 2020.

Read more: http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/resources/highlights/detail/en/c/1271715/


Love the smell of wet earth after rain? So do these strange creatures

Humans aren’t the only ones to appreciate the earthy aroma after an April rain shower. That smell—known as petrichor—stems from microscopic streptomycete bacteria in the soil that produce a compound called geosmin, The Times reports. Although geosmin can be toxic to some species, others, such as the insect-like springtail, associate it with a meal. A recent study published this week in Nature Microbiology used tiny electrodes to monitor the response of springtails’ sensitive antennae to the scent of geosmin.

Read more: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/love-smell-wet-earth-after-rain-so-do-these-strange-creatures?utm_campaign=ScienceNow&utm_source=JHubbard&utm_medium=Facebook


Conferences, Meetings and Workshops

The outbreak of the Corona virus is clearly a rapidly evolving situation. The organizers of the meetings listed below are constantly reviewing the situation in the light of global and country-specific advice to inform decisions to minimize the additional risks to attendees, their communities and those living in the meeting’s host country. 

The IUSS will also continue to monitor the situation, and advise that prior to attending meetings our members review up to date information from their country’s government, the WHO and from the host country to ensure that everyone’s health and wellbeing remains a priority.


Soil Science Conference of Malaysia (SOILS 2020) – “Soil Management towards Plant Productivity & Environmental Sustainability”


Johor Bharu, Malaysia

The year 2020 will witness the collaboration of Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and MSSS in organizing the SOILS 2020 conference. It will gather various stakeholders from the private, governmental and non-governmental sectors in deliberating and sharing research findings on soil management and environmental sustainability.

Contact: soilsconference2020@gmail.com


16th  International Conference on Soil Micromorphology

 Postponed to 2021!

The short micromorphological course is also postponed to 2021.

The new date of the conference will be announced in the autumn this year. Now we can say generally that the date of the conference will be around September 2021. The participants who paid the conference fee are asked to contact us if they would like to move the payment to 2021 or if they would like to get the money back (in the latter case we will have to take 30 EUR for manipulation costs related with bank account transfers).

Contact: icosm2020@sggw.pl



Postponed to 3-6 November 2020, Dublin, Ireland.

Abstract (flash and poster) submission deadline: July 31, 2020

Standard registration deadline: August 31, 2020

Symposium website: http://www.iscraes2020.org/

Download flyer: https://www.iuss.org/media/iscraes_flyer_updated.jpg


Soils Conference 2020 – Soils, investing in our future

29 November – 4 December 2020, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Soil Science Australia and New Zealand Society of Soil Science’s joint conference

Short & Extended Abstract Submissions Deadline: May 31, 2020

Website: https://www.soilscienceaustralia.org.au/soils-conference-2020/


International workshop Soil conservation and Environmental Protection

3-5 December 2020, Imola, Italy

Deadline abstract submission: September 30, 2020

Recently, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) highlighted that Europe has a reference legislation for safeguarding water and air quality and that no legislation, until now, concerns soil quality. Moreover, in the last ten years the areas at desertification risk have increased by approximately 1.8 million hectares.

The goal of the workshop is to provide methodologies, tools and data to land managers and administrators aiming at a sustainable management and conservation of the soil, a primary and limited resource. Moreover the workshop wishes to highlights that a soil kept in “good health”, through good management practices, brings multiple benefits for the whole ecosystem, not only for agriculture and forest lands but also, to assure water quality and regulation, to preserve the hydrogeological stability of the territory and for landscape protection and enhancement.

The last day of the workshop will be dedicated to the WSD celebration.

Registration form to be sent to geolab@geolab-aps.it 

Read more: media/soil_conservation_and_environmental_protection_december_2020_first_circular.pdf


Global Soil Conference 2020

Caring Soils Beyond Food Security

9-13 December, 2020, New Delhi, India

Receipt of Abstracts Deadline: 30 June 2020

Read more: http://www.isss-india.org/img/GlobalSoilConference2020.pdf 



International Colloquium on Soil Zoology

28 March – 2 April 2021 (postponed from 2020)

Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy

Early bird registration until December 31, 2020

Website: https://icsz2020.eurac.edu/


Global Conference on Sandy Soils

30 May – 3 June 2021 (postponed from 2020); University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Deadline for Abstract submission is March 31, 2021 (postponed)

Download: https://www.iuss.org/media/global_conference_on_sandy_soils.pdf

Read more: https://sandysoils.org/


For the complete list of upcoming events, please see the event calendar on the IUSS website: https://www.iuss.org/meetings-events/


New publications

Soil and Groundwater Remediation Technologies

A Practical Guide

By Yong Sik Ok, Jörg Rinklebe, Deyi Hou, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Filip M.G. Tack. 1st Edition published April 10 2020 by CRC Press, 338 Pages – 30 Colour & 70 B/W Illustrations, ISBN 9780367337407, price hardback GBP 124.00, eBook VitalSource GBP 27.29, eBook VitalSource rental GBP 21.00.

This book offers various soil and water treatment technologies due to increasing global soil and water pollution. In many countries, the management of contaminated land has matured, and it is developing in many others. Topics covered include chemical and ecological risk assessment of contaminated sites; phytomanagement of contaminants; arsenic removal; selection and technology diffusion; technologies and socio-environmental management; post-remediation long-term management; soil and groundwater laws and regulations; and trace element regulation limits in soil. Future prospects of soil and groundwater remediation are critically discussed in this book. Hence, readers will learn to understand the future prospects of soil and groundwater contaminants and remediation measures.

Read more: https://www.routledge.com/Soil-and-Groundwater-Remediation-Technologies-A-Practical-Guide/Ok-Rinklebe-Hou-Tsang-Tack/p/book/9780367337407


Beneficial Microbes for Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Management

By Jeyabalan Sangeetha, Devarajan Thangadurai, Saher Islam. Published March 27, 2020 by Apple Academic Press, 396 pages, ISBN 9780429284137, price hardcover GBP 104.80, eBook GBP 85.15.

Microbes are the most abundant organisms in the biosphere and regulate many critical elemental and biogeochemical phenomena. Because microbes are the key players in the carbon cycle and in related biological reactions, microbial ecology is a vital research area for understanding the contribution of the biosphere in global warming and the response of the natural environment to climate variations. The beneficial uses of microbes have enabled constructive and cost-effective responses that have not been possible through physical or chemical methods. This new volume reviews the multifaceted interactions among microbes, ecosystems, and their pivotal role in maintaining a more balanced environment, in order to help facilitate living organisms coexisting with the natural environment. With extensive references, tables, and illustrations, this book provides valuable information on microbial utilization for environmental sustainability and provides fascinating insights into microbial diversity.

Read more: https://www.routledge.com/Beneficial-Microbes-for-Sustainable-Agriculture-and-Environmental-Management/Sangeetha-Thangadurai-Islam/p/book/9780429284137


Soil Supplements: Implications on Plant Productivity

By Bhupinder Dhir. Published in the series Agriculture Issues and Policies in March 2020 by Nova Science Publishing, 210 pages, ISBN: 978-1-53617-423-6, price hardcover $160.00.

The need for more food to sustain the growing human population has led to the conversion of forests to croplands. Excessive input of chemical fertilizers has exerted pressure on soil resulting in the deterioration of its quality and productive potential. The changing environmental conditions and climatic transformations have also adversely affected the properties of soil. Realizing the negative effects of chemical fertilizers on soil quality, various organic substances, waste materials and other substances were explored for their potential to be used as soil supplements. This book provides detailed information about various inorganic, organic, biological and other non-conventional soil supplements with emphasis to the role they play in maintaining soil fertility and increasing agricultural productivity. The soil supplements contribute a lot in restoring the productive potential of soil to a great extent. Each soil supplement possesses certain advantages and limitations in restoring the fertility of soil. Integrated fertilizer treatment proves beneficial in restoring soil fertility for various types of soils. The book provides latest information on the topic and describes advances in soil science.

Read more: https://novapublishers.com/shop/soil-supplements-implications-on-plant-productivity/


Bridging Among Disciplines by Synthesizing Soil and Plant Processes

By Ole Wendroth (Editor), Robert J. Lascano (Editor), Liwang Ma (Editor), Published in Series Advances in Agricultural Systems Modeling in March 2020 by Wiley. 304 Pages, ISBN: 978-0-891-18364-8, price hardcover GBP 56.95.

In the 8th book of Dr. Ahuja’s innovative “Advances in Agricultural Systems Modeling” series, authors give a look into the future of climate-smart agricultural systems, emphasizing the integration of soil, weather, vegetation and management information to predict relevant agro-ecosystem processes. Expansion of data availability, improvement of sensors, and computational power have opened opportunities in modeling and exploration of management impact. Authors give a background on model development and explain soil, plant, and climate processes and their interactions that encompass the wide range of applications of simulation models to address challenges in managing our resources and complex agricultural systems.

Read more: https://www.wiley.com/en-gb/Bridging+Among+Disciplines+by+Synthesizing+Soil+and+Plant+Processes-p-9780891183648


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