Taking care of soils since 1924
IUSS Alert 187 (January 2021)

IUSS Alert 187 (January 2021)


IUSS Bulletin 137 online

IUSS Bulletin 137 (94 pages) was published on the IUSS website early January 2021. The avid reader awaits an update on the further preparations for the 22nd World Congress of Soil Science (WCSS22), news from national and regional Soil Science Societies, followed by an account of World Soil Day 2020 and the presentation of THE IUSS GOES TO SCHOOL project. In the beginning of December 2020 a new sub-site was created on the IUSS website, in which recent activities of this initiative are described: https://www.iuss.org/international-decade-of-soils/the-iuss-goes-to-the-school/. Information on the IUSS educative project “Thus are the soils of my Nation” (#TheSoilIsLife), which aims at stopping soil degradation, and on the IUSS – FAO-GSP Children’s book contest on Soil Biodiversity round off the section on soil education and awareness raising. This is followed by conference and meeting reports, articles from the IUSS alerts, new publications and an article on an extraordinary documentary about soils with the title ‘Kiss the Ground’.

Read more: https://www.iuss.org/index.php?rex_media_type=download&rex_media_file=iuss-bulletin137_final.pdf


News from the Latin American Soil Science Society (SLCS)

1st International Soil Assessment Course and 3rd Mexican Soil Evaluation Contest

From November 30 to December 4, 2020, as part of the SLCS-UNITED’s Macro-event organized by the Latin American Soil Science Society to celebrate the WSD, the 1st International Soil Assessment Course organized for the National Autonomous University of Mexico was held online. 357 participants from 21 countries were officially registered. At the Latin American level, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Spain stand out, as far as the number of registered participants is concerned. Apart from Latin America, participants came from Israel, the Czech Republic, Portugal and the United States.

At the same time, as a second part of the WSD celebration, on December 5th, the third Mexican Soil Evaluation Contest was successfully concluded by 26 participants from 18 countries. Registration and international participation in both events was free.

Argentinean Soil Science Society

Celebrating the WSD, from November 30 to December 5, 2020, the Argentinean Soil Science Society successfully organized 16 different events online and on the radio, both for scientists, citizens and children. These events were part of the SLCS-UNITED’s Macro-event organized by the Latin American Soil Science Society.

Mexican Soil Science Society

Working as a team to celebrate the WSD, the Mexican Soil Science Society successfully organized 56 different events within the SLCS-UNITED’s Macro-event, and as part of the National Soil Partnership, the academy, citizens, NGOs and the government sector signed a new pact to preserve the resource soil.


Stop Soil Degradation and the IUSS’s Educative Project to Achieve It

On the 5th of December, celebrating the World Soil Day, the educative Project “THE IUSS GOES TO SCHOOL” presented:

  • A virtual space to all children around the world inviting them to take care of the soils of their nations: www.iuss-goes-to-school.org.mx
  • To children from Poland, the Polish version of the Book “Living in the Soil” (Chrońmy gleby), in collaboration with the Soil Science Societies of Spain and Poland.
  • To all children speaking English and Spanish:
  • The Book “Vermicomposting for school children”
  • The Book “Perfilito, … A very lucky boy” as a collaboration between countries from the Latin American Soil Science Society.
  • A set of Crop Cards inviting them to produce their own food (some of them are also in French and German).
  • To all children around the world and in collaboration with FAO as our partner, copies of the three winners of the Booklet contest for children on Soil Biodiversity, as well as a selection of these booklets in English on line both on the IUSS Web site as well as on www.iuss-goes-to-school.org.mx.


IUSS Youtube channel

Go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX3cdAuO5QrPx0EtDPahQcg to see the latest news from the IUSS and soil science.


Margaret Oliver Award for Early-Career Pedometricians Call for Nominations, 2021 award

The Pedometrics Commission of the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) makes a biennial award, which is intended to recognize up-and-coming talent in pedometrics. The award is named for Margaret Oliver, in recognition of her outstanding commitment to the promotion and encouragement of pedometricians in the early stages of their careers as well as her overall service to pedometrics. The award will be given at each biennial meeting of the Pedometrics Commission. The deadline for nominations is set for 1 February, nominations can be send to the chair of the award committee Murray Lark, murray.lark@nottingham.ac.uk with the subject line “Oliver Award 2021”

Requirements and eligibility for the award of the Margaret Oliver award:

Nominees must have:

(1) received a PhD degree or equivalent no more than six years before the nomination deadline of 1st-February-2021; that is, the degree must have been awarded after 01-February-2015

(2) made high-quality contributions to pedometrics, as evidenced by published work, conference presentations, workshops, field guides, etc.

(3) at the time of the award be active in pedometrics and with a prospect of so continuing “Pedometrics” is broadly defined as the application of mathematics or statistics in soil science.

For more information about the nominations procedure see http://pedometrics.org/margaret-oliver-award-for-early-career-pedometricians-call-for-nominations-2021-award/


Magdi Selim (1944-2020)

  1. Magdi Selim, age 76, died in Baton Rouge on November 26, 2020. He was a professor of soil physics at Louisiana State University for over forty years before retiring in 2019. Magdi served as the Graduate student coordinator for the Agronomy Department and was a beloved mentor for members of the LSU AgCenter faculty.

He earned his BS degree from Alexandria University in Egypt and his MS and PhD from Iowa State University. Magdi authored or coauthored over ten books and numerous scientific publications in several journals. In 2014 he received the IUSS Von Liebig Award at the World Congress of Soil Science in Jeju, South Korea, for his outstanding contributions in applied soil science research.

Read more: https://www.iuss.org/about-the-iuss/awards-prizes/awards/von-liebig-award/von-liebig-award-2014/

He is survived by his wife Liz, their son Richard and his wife Emily, and his grandson Elliott. Magdi enjoyed LSU basketball, eating at Sammy’s Grill, and his many pet cats over the years. A reception celebrating his life will be scheduled in 2021.


General News

Land-applying forest residues restores soil acidity

Soil acidification, a major issue responsible for agricultural land degradation, affects 50% of arable soils in many countries, including Canada and the United States. Land application of forest‐derived residues is one solution for correcting soil acidity—and these forest‐derived residues are widely available.

Read more: https://acsess.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/csan.20343

[From: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Science Policy Report: 20 January 2021]


Webinar on Soil Governance

To mark the launch of the SoiLEX platform, the FAO Global Soil Partnership (GSP) organized a webinar on soil governance on 13 January 2021. The webinar included a high-level opening, presentations on how to improve soil governance, the presentation of the SoiLEX platform and a question and answer session with all panelists. The webinar brought together 824 participants from more than 160 countries and was a milestone in the promotion of soil governance around the world. The discussion generated considerable interest in the implementation of legal instruments related to soil protection in different countries. The SoiLEX is a global database on national legislation on soil that aims to facilitate access to existing legal instruments and to bridge the gap between soil stakeholders. The new online platform facilitates the search for national soil legal instruments, the understanding of legal areas relevant to soil management and protection as well as the exchange of experiences in soil governance between countries and regions.

To know more: http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/resources/events/detail/en/c/1364883/

[From: Global Soil Partnership Newsletter no 30, 22 December 2020]


Global Soil Doctors questionnaire

Interested in the Global Soil Doctors Programme? The first step in the implementation of the Global Soil Doctors Programme at the local level is the identification of potential promoters. To determine whether your institution or project is suitable to implement the Global Soil Doctors programme, please answer this short questionnaire:
EN: https://bit.ly/3gPXJ7z
ES: https://bit.ly/34edVdP
FR: https://bit.ly/3oV4RCo
Any questions? soil-doctor@fao.org

Read more: http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/resources/highlights/detail/en/c/1364945/

[From: Global Soil Partnership Newsletter no 30, 22 December 2020]


World Soil Day 2020

More than 700 events in over 100 countries marked World Soil Day “Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity”. An excellent track on social media with 300 million people talking about the importance of soil biodiversity for a healthy life, a strong resonance in global media and thousands of downloads of our campaign materials.

Read more: http://www.fao.org/world-soil-day/en/

[From: Global Soil Partnership Newsletter no 30, 22 December 2020]


Launch of the International Network on Fertilizer Analysis

In relation to the implementation of the International Code of Conduct for the Sustainable Use and Management of Fertilizers and in response to the request to look into the harmonization of methods for fertilizer analysis, the Global Soil Partnership decided to launch the International Network on Fertilizer Analysis (INFA) on 8 and 9 December 2020. The meeting, attended by about 290 people from 89 countries established the network and defined its main areas of work.

Read more: http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/resources/highlights/detail/en/c/1364771/

[From: Global Soil Partnership Newsletter no 30, 22 December 2020]


Nasa’s Curiosity rover: 3,000 days on Mars

The US space agency (Nasa) is about to put its latest rover, Perseverance, on Mars. But we shouldn’t forget that the existing robot, Curiosity, is still there and working well following its landing in equatorial Gale Crater back in 2012. Curiosity celebrates 3,000 Martian days, or Sols, on the surface of the Red Planet on Tuesday. The Mission Science Team has collected together a series of pictures that record some of the rover’s major achievements.

We all know Mars as the Red Planet, we see that in the night sky. However, as our drill tailings gallery shows, once we drill just a small depth in to the interior, Mars can be very different. We have drilled successfully 29 times now and the sediments show a range of hues from ochre-red to blue-grey reflecting the minerals and fluids that passed through the ancient rocks. Drilling allows us to get through the top most, oxidized surface that has been most exposed to cosmic radiation.

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-55562150?fbclid=IwAR1YEtWxHW-pt8jhBOPC42iJlBKkBxJAyF2Dzcyw4aHPILYkafp2Rw4O5Qg


GSBI Blog “Beneath Our Feet”: The scent of earth – a connection between sporulating soil bacteria and springtails

When digging into soil, we uncover the fragrance of earth that many of us associate with gardening, agriculture or a walk in the forest. The earthy smell is so familiar to us and common on our planet that we might not think about it as anything more than a meaningless whiff. However, the volatile compounds we smell often have a biological function for those that release or those that detect the compounds. So, what about that earthy scent of soil? Could it have an ecological significance?

The smell of soil derives largely from the two characteristic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol, which have long been known to be produced by soil bacteria of the genus Streptomyces.

Read more: https://www.globalsoilbiodiversity.org/blog-beneath-our-feet/2020/12/22/the-scent-of-earth-a-connection-between-sporulating-soil-bacteria-and-springtails

[From GSBI Newsletter – January 2021]


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.


UNESCO Lecture Series-Earth Material for a Sustainable and Thriving Society

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 to Thursday, April 1, 2021; online webinars

Details: The lectures will be delivered in webinar format by recognized global experts who will frame their presentations in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Series will boost knowledge of Earth materials and contribute to better informed local, regional, and international discussions. The lectures will be freely accessible and will be archived for later online access.

Read more: https://bit.ly/UNESCOLectures


Upcoming FAO Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity (GSOBI21)

19-22 April 2021 (postponed from February 2021), virtual

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity ‘Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity’ will be a science-policy meeting, fully virtual. Due to its new format and the time difference between the different regions of the world, adjustments have been made to the current agenda.

It is jointly organized by the UN FAO and its Global Soil Partnership (GSP), the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS), together with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) and the Science-Policy Interface of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (SPI UNCCD).

The main objective will be to fill some critical knowledge gaps and promote discussion among policy makers, food producers, scientists, practitioners and other stakeholders on solutions to live in harmony with nature, and ultimately, achieve the SDGs through the conservation and sustainable use of soil biodiversity.

Read more: http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/soil-biodiversity-symposium/en/

[From GSBI Newsletter – January 2021]


Emerging policy challenges on New SOil contaminants (ENSOr) Workshop 2021

6-7 May 2021, Online event

The event will consist of a multitude of online live sessions during which -for this edition- we will (in addition to PFAS) also try to broaden our view towards other (diffuse) contaminants, such as pesticides, hormones, microplastics and so on. In addition to new insights on the challenges of emerging contaminants, we also welcome topics that explore how to tackle emerging contaminants in systemic solution oriented frameworks, such as soil care and land stewardship.

The call for abstracts is open until 31 January 2021.

Read more: https://www.2mpact.be/ensor20202/call-for-abstracts


AquaConSoil 2021 – webinar series & focus week

14-18 June 2021, Online event

We live in a time of transitions, facing and dealing with climate change, population growth and many other challenges. The awareness grows that a healthy soil-sediment-water (SSW) system is fundamental to overcome societal challenges and meet societal needs. To retain and promote a vital and healthy soil-water system and at the same time facilitate these transitions, we need to connect.

We will host interesting and inspiring keynote speakers and organize interactive sessions throughout the year leading up to our digital focus week between June 14th – June 18th, 2021. Our digital activities will all be presented to you in bite-size chunks so they’re easy to digest. Sessions will last for 60 mins and are scheduled during lunch breaks and/or at the end of the day (also depending on your time zone). In our focus week in June, we give the floor to you, our network, to share your projects and research with us.

Deadline for abstract submission: February 14, 2021

Read more: www.aquaconsoil.com


Eurosoil 2021 goes virtual

23 -27 August, 2021, virtual congress

Due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and the persistent uncertainty on travel restrictions, country lock-downs and physical distancing requirements, the Eurosoil 2021 organisers have decided to transform the physical 2021 Congress into a virtual congress from 23 -27 August. This decision has been taken by the committee in order to ensure the smooth planning and delivery of this event in the most serene and fair conditions for the participants, speakers, sponsors, contributors and organisers.

One of the key benefits of a virtual event is providing on-demand content for viewers from across the globe for a longer period of time than simply the dates of the “live” event. This allows the opportunity for a much larger audience to experience and access EUROSOIL content according to everyone’s own schedule, time zone and pace.

We see it as an opportunity to widen the audience and maximize the interactions, in particular between stakeholders, thus increasing the “connecting people and soil” value of EUROSOIL. The Organising Committee is fully committed to creating a virtual event that reflects these objectives as well as the highest standards of science, education, and innovation. We will use state-of-the-art technology to ensure fruitful exchanges, presentations of original findings and inclusion of up-to-date topics in a renewed programme. We look forward to providing you this unique experience.

We would like to share the information that is already confirmed:

  • Registrations that have been made for the Eurosoil 2021 congress will be transferred to the Eurosoil 2021 virtual congress
  • Discounted rates will apply for the virtual events and a revised timeline for early bird registrations & late registrations will be published on the congress website very soon
  • Notifications to submitters of contributions for sessions will be circulated mid-May 2021 as already scheduled
  • All accepted contributions to sessions will be maintained for the Eurosoil 2021 virtual congress
  • Contributors will have the opportunity to amend/update/edit their contribution in 2021 – details of the timeline for this process will be communicated once finalised
  • The Session programme topics will remain the same for the vast majority of the programme – some minor changes and updates will be made and announced in as timely manner as possible
  • “Late breaking” call for contributions will open in February/March 2021 – more information will be published soon on the congress website

Read more: Eurosoil 2021 website



10th International Symposium on Forest Soils – ISFS 2022

‘Forest Soils under Global Change: Processes, Biodiversity and Ecological Services’

October 17-21, 2022, Hangzhou, P. R. China

The objectives of this conference are 1) to bring together scientists, educators and practitioners working in the areas of forestry, forest soil science and global change biology to discuss issues of common interest, and to present the most up-to-date research findings on forest soil properties, processes, biodiversity and ecological services under the influence of global change; 2) to facilitate the development of international linkages, scientific exchange and strategic alliances in forest soils research and education; and 3) to discuss policy implications of forest management practices and climate change impacts on soil properties, forest productivity, and ecosystem processes and services.

Deadline for Submission of Abstracts: May 30th, 2022

Read more: http://isfs2021.csp.escience.cn/


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


New publications

The Soil-Human Health-Nexus

Edited By Rattan Lal, published December 20, 2020, by CRC Press, 350 pages, 29 Color & 34 B/W Illustrations, ISBN 9780367422134, price: paperback GBP 66.99, hardback GBP 150.00; VitalSource eBook purchase GBP 60.29, 6-month rental GBP 33.50, 12-month rental GBP 40.20.

The term “soil health” refers to the functionality of a soil as a living ecosystem capable of sustaining plants, animals, and humans while also improving the environment. In addition to soil health, the environment also comprises the quality of air, water, vegetation, and biota. The health of soil, plants, animals, people, and the environment is an indivisible continuum.

One of the notable ramifications of the Anthropocene is the growing risks of decline in soil health by anthropogenic activities. Important among these activities are deforestation, biomass burning, excessive soil tillage, indiscriminate use of agrochemicals, excessive irrigation by flooding or inundation, and extractive farming practices. Soil pollution, by industrial effluents and urban waste adversely impacts human health. Degradation of soil health impacts nutritional quality of food, such as the uptake of heavy metals or deficit of essential micro-nutrients, and contamination by pests and pathogens. Indirectly, soil health may impact human health through contamination of water and pollution of air.

Part of the Advances in Soil Sciences series, this informative volume covering various aspects of soil health appeals to soil scientists, environmental scientists and public health workers.

Read more: https://www.routledge.com/The-Soil-Human-Health-Nexus/Lal/p/book/9780367422134


Soil erosion: Special Issue published in the International Soil and Water Conservation Journal

Edited by Richard Cruse, Costanza Calzolari, Lucia Anjos, Nigussie Haregeweyn, Clara Lefèvre, published in December 2020, Volume 8, Issue 4, pages 333-452

The special issue of the Global Symposium on Soil Erosion, 15-19 May 2019, Rome, FAO entitled “Soil erosion assessment tools and data; creation, consolidation, and harmonization” presents advances in soil erosion research with a focus on new tools that are being used to assess soil erosion rates. This publication includes eleven selected contributions dealing with erosion indicators’ improvement, the use of remote sensing, nuclear techniques and geochemical fingerprinting.

Read more: http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/resources/highlights/detail/en/c/1363303/

Download the article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/international-soil-and-water-conservation-research/vol/8/issue/4

[From: Global Soil Partnership Newsletter no 30, 22 December 2020]


Understanding and improving crop root function

Edited by Peter Gregory, University of Reading, UK. Published 19 January 2021 by Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing, 686 pages, ISBN-13: 9781786763600, price hardback GBP 180.00, also available as eBook from VitalSource.

Recent decades have seen a dramatic increase in research on plant roots. A deeper understanding of the complex ways roots interact with soils is making it possible to ‘design’ roots to optimise nutrient/water uptake in low-input environments, as well as deliver other benefits such as improved soil health and reduced nutrient leaching. Continued research is needed in this important area so that it can contribute to more sustainable, ‘climate-smart’ crop production.

Understanding and improving crop root function features authoritative reviews of current research in all aspects of root science, including root growth regulators, root anatomy, nutrient acquisition and root system architecture. This collection discusses the responses of plant roots to abiotic and biotic stresses and how understanding nutrient uptake can be exploited to optimise root function. The book concludes with a dedicated section on methods used to improve crop root function and crop nutrient use efficiency, such as the use of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). Read more: https://shop.bdspublishing.com/store/bds/detail/workgroup/3-190-89122


Job offers

If you are interested in working in soil sciences and related fields of expertise, please see current job offers at: https://www.iuss.org/jobs/



financially supported

If you are interested to promote your product or book, event, job call in our Alert, please send an email to .


IUSS Alerts are e-mailed to more than 2,800 individual subscribers and 80 national soil science societies globally. Please forward the IUSS Alerts to your friends and colleagues. Send information for IUSS Alerts to iuss@umweltbundesamt.at
If you would like to receive the monthly IUSS Alert by email, please subscribe here https://www.iuss.org/toolbox/iuss-alert-registration/

The IUSS is on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook