Soil health—useful terminology for communication or meaningless concept? Or both?

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Powlson, D. S. 2020. Soil health—useful terminology for communication or meaningless concept? Or both? Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering - FASE.

AuthorsPowlson, D. S.

What is soil health? It is not essential to have a degree in soil science in order to have a valid opinion on this. In a very general sense, almost everybody has some impression of what is meant by a healthy soil, especially anyone who has done any gardening or even looked after a potted plant on a windowsill. They will probably say it should have a beautiful crumbly structure, should hold water but not become waterlogged, and be teeming with life; provided that life does not include insects or pathogens that damage the plants. In a somewhat analogous way, the word “wellbeing” is used concerning the way individual humans feel about themselves and we will all have our own ideas on what contributes to our personal wellbeing. It is likely to include being in good physical and mental health, being adequately fed and being housed. However, social scientists have taken the idea further, developing indicators of wellbeing and even using these to compare the state of wellbeing in different countries and assess the impact of policies on the way people feel. Some may consider that this is taking the “wellbeing” concept too far. With soil health, perhaps soil scientists make it too complicated. However, although anyone may have a general idea of what makes a healthy soil, if the term is to be used in anything other than general informal conversation, we do need to “dig a little deeper”, if readers will excuse the pun.

Year of Publication2020
JournalFrontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering - FASE
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition [ISPG]
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online27 Apr 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted26 Mar 2020
PublisherHigher Education Press

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