The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has launched a report titled “The State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity” on the occasion of World Soil Day, marked on 5 December.
The report says despite the fact that biodiversity loss is at the forefront of global concerns, the biodiversity that is below ground is not being given the importance it deserves and needs to be fully taken into account when planning interventions for sustainable development.
Soil organisms play a crucial role in boosting food production, enhancing nutritious diets, preserving human health, remediating pollution and combating climate change, but their contribution remains largely underestimated, the report points out.
“Soils are not only the foundation of agri-food systems and where 95 percent of the foods we eat is produced, but their health and biodiversity are also central to our efforts to end hunger and achieve sustainable agri-food systems,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at the World Soil Day ceremony.
However, the FAO chief pointed to the decline in soil health and numerous ecosystem services they provide. To avoid dramatic consequences this trend may have on food security, nutrition, climate change and sustainable development, he called for urgent actions to unlock the potential of living genetic resources in soils.
In his remarks, Qu also highlighted the need for establishing an efficient global soil information system in line with digital agriculture and innovations in environmetrics, to protect our “silent, dedicated heroes” as he referred to soil organisms.
“As a Chinese proverb says: Soil is the Mother of all creatures on earth. Do not forget the Mother when you are getting nourishment from,” the Director-General said.
Soils are one of the main global reservoirs of biodiversity. They host more than 25 percent of the world’s biological diversity. In addition, more than 40 percent of living organisms in terrestrial ecosystems are associated with soils during their life cycle.
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of Convention on Biological Biodiversity, in her video address to the ceremony, said: “We urgently need to recognize that soil biodiversity is indispensable to food security and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Soil biodiversity underpins the productivity and resilience of agriculture, making production systems and livelihoods more resilient to shocks and stresses.”
During the ceremony, The Glinka World Soil Prize and the King Bhumibol World Soil Day Award winners were announced. The Glinka World Soil Prize 2020, named after the pioneering Russian scientist Konstantin D. Glinka, was awarded to the Italian agricultural scientist, Luca Montanarella from the European Commission. The Glinka gold-plated medal was presented to the winner by the FAO Director-General. Montanarella is recognized as an active promoter of soil awareness in Europe and worldwide, supporting the transfer of scientific knowledge on soils into policy development.
Presenting the monetary reward of $15,000, Victor Vasiliev, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to FAO, stressed the importance of promoting agroecological approaches in farming which give more attention to enriching soil biodiversity. He cited organic farming, no till farming, crop rotation and conservation farming as good examples of such techniques.
The King Bhumibol World Soil Day Award, named after the late King of Thailand, was conferred to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), for its commitment to raising awareness of the importance of healthy soils. Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, will officially present the prize to ICAR in Bangkok in January 2021.
Thanawat Tiensin, Permanent Representative of Thailand to FAO, said that the current pandemic showed us how precious and fragile our health is, and to protect it we need to start from our soil. This in turn requires protecting its biodiversity.
The event also saw the launch of the Armenian Soil Information System.