The three favourite soil science books of:
Alessandro Piccolo (Italy)
An essential reference in Soil Chemistry is certainly the book of Dr. F.J. Stevenson on Humus Chemistry: Genesis, Composition, Reactions (Wiley) in either the first edition of 1982 or in the more updated second edition of 1994. The book have represented, and still does, the first comprehensive effort to introduce a rigorous chemical approach into one of the most important fields of Soil Science, though long neglected: the Chemistry and Reactivity of Organic Matter. While two important books were either published or edited earlier by Dr. M. Schnitzer, mainly as a report of experimental works, the book of Stevenson attempted for the first time to give a systematic frame to the scientific advances in the field of humus chemistry. I remember to have used the lectures notes of Dr. Stevenson s course on Soil Organic Matter during my research work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, before they became the core of the book to come. As an organic chemist, I was impressed by the rigorous chemical approach adopted by Frank Stevenson in his book that was, and still is in some way, quite different from the contemporary literature on soil organic matter that rather showed an agronomic approach. Being above all a textbook for students, the book introduces the reader to modern physical-chemical techniques to study the molecular structure of humus, thereby providing to young Soil Chemists the keys to shift from the traditional soft to the today-required hard humic Science. It is impossible to underrate the paramount importance of this book in the history of Soil Science.
Another book on soil chemistry to be cited is Cycles of Soil (Wiley, 1999) by F.J.Stevenson and M.A.Cole. This text is particularly valuable as a follow-up of the previous Stevenson s book on Humus Chemistry. The merit of this volume is to adopt an environmental approach to describe the behaviour and significance of the different plant nutrients and micronutrients present in soil. Again, the text is scientifically rigorous and well integrates the chemistry of the cycling elements with their biochemical and microbiological processes.
Finally, a recent book that I find very innovative and valid for both teaching and research perspectives is: Handbook of processes and modelling in the soil-plant system (Haworth Press, 2003), edited by D.K. Benbi and R. Nieder. The main innovation of the book is to regard the relationship between the soil and the plants as a whole system, thereby making a considerable advance in the necessary systemic approach of Soil Chemistry. However, while the different chapters are well written and up-dated, they somewhat fail to respect the promises contained in the title and mostly (but not all) present soil and plants as still separate issues. The second merit is to have introduced concepts and techniques of modelling of soil-plant processes with a commending critical approach by showing advantages and disadvantages of the contemporary modelling state of the art. A very valid book also for teaching purposes.