Quality soil management or soil quality management: Performance versus semantics

Manejo de Suelos de Calidad o Manejo de Calidad de Suelos: Desempeño versus Semántica

Sojka, R.E. and Upchurch, D.R. and Borlaug, N.E. (2003) Quality soil management or soil quality management: Performance versus semantics. Advances in Agronomy. 79:1-68.

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Abstract

In the past 200 years, soil science has used reductionist research to develop agricultural technologies that have unlocked the hidden potential of earth's natural systems to feed, clothe, and provide raw materials to the human population of over six billion. The soil quality paradigm seeks to change that scientific approach, the nomenclature of soil science, and institutional priorities for soil management and research. The definition of soil quality is elusive and value-laden. Concerns exist for the paradigm's policy overtones, regional and taxonomic biases, failure to reconcile conceptual contradictions, as well as its ambiguous definitions that are confounded by countless circumstance-specific, function-dependent scenarios. The paradigm does not recognize or offer practical means to manage conflicting, and often contradictory soil management requirements for the multiple functions of soil that occur simultaneously. Implementation of the concept has delivered low index ratings for many of the most economically productive and least subsidized US soils and agricultural sectors, and high ratings for soils and regions with some of the lowest economic return and greatest subsidization. The paradigm's focus on arbitrarily selected function assessment has diverted research and management resources from efforts aimed directly at developing improved management capable of solving existing identified and prioritized problems. We attempt to articulate the dangers of shifting soil science away from the value-neutral tradition of edaphology and specific problem solving to a paradigm based on variable, and often subjective, societal perceptions of environmental holism. We submit that over-arching, philosophically driven indexing of soil status, as opposed to focused, specific soil status and property characterization, carries risks to the scientific assessment process, and to the scientist's role as a data interpreter and science mediator. Value intrusion in umbrella-style indices erodes the individual manager's access to objective data to make decisions. We suggest emphasizing quality soil management rather than soil quality management as a professional and scientific goal.

Item Type: Article
NWISRL Publication Number: 1099
Subjects: Soil > Soil quality
Mass Import - autoclassified (may be erroneous)
Depositing User: Dan Stieneke
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2010 21:50
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2010 18:43
Item ID: 157
URI: https://eprints.nwisrl.ars.usda.gov/id/eprint/157

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