This week, a new venture called the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) was introduced at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome.

“There is increasing awareness that soils have a central role to play in assuring food security and in climate change adaptation and mitigation,” said Charles W. Rice, university distinguished professor of agronomy at Kansas State University, who participated in the effort. Rice also is the 2011 president of the Soil Science Society of

“There is an urgent need for better coordination and partnership among the many ongoing projects, initiatives, and partnerships in order to make the
most efficient use of resources,” he said.

The partnership’s mission is to support and facilitate joint efforts towards sustainable management of soil resources for food security and climate change
adaptation and mitigation.

GSP will focus on collaboration and sharing responsibilities in order to provide a framework for joint strategies and actions, according to the FAO.

Soils are a non-renewable resource under constant threat of degradation due to population pressures, inappropriate practices, and inadequate governance, Rice
said. There are many competing interests for the use of soil resources at the global scale, and one function of the GPS will be to facilitate a dialogue and
interaction among these interests.

“One of the most important interests is the use of soils for food production. This interest has to compete with the need for the use of soils for energy
production, settlement and infrastructure, raw materials extraction, and more,” Rice said. “To assure that soil resources are adequate for the production of
food for future generations, we need to reverse the trend of increasing soil degradation processes due to land use changes.”  

Soil also is important for mitigating climate change, and its proper management can support human adaptation efforts, Rice said. This is another important
interest associated with soil resources, and one that will be addressed by the GSP.

“Soil is both a source and a sink of greenhouse gases. Many people don’t realize it, but soil contains twice as much carbon worldwide as the atmosphere. The flux
of carbon dioxide between soil and the atmosphere is also large, and estimated at ten times the flux of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels,” he said.

In addition, waterlogged and permafrost soils hold major stocks of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, as well as carbon, he said.

GSP will complement similar FAO initiatives for water (the Global WaterPartnership) and land (Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of
Tenure of Land and Other Natural Resources).

Source: Kansas State University