Protection of both soil and water resources is of great importance to the society, which is however challenged by the growing world population, demand of consumptions and thus agricultural intensification, as well as climate change, writes researcher Jian Liu.(Photo: Shutterstock / NTB)
World Soil Day emphasizes the increasing need to integrate soil and water research and management
OPINION: Extreme dry and wet events has caused many challenges to both food production and water protection. This calls for the increase of integrated soil and water research to address the national and global challenges in food security and environmental sustainability.
Jian Liu, Researcher at The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy ResearchÅs
Each year, World
Soil Day is held on 5 December globally to emphasize the importance of soils in
food production, ecosystem health and the society. This year’s theme is soil
and water, which together produce over 95 per cent of our food on the planet.
of both soil and water resources is of great importance to the society, which
is however challenged by the growing world population, demand of consumptions
and thus agricultural intensification, as well as climate change. Soil and
water are connected in many ways, one of which lies in soil nutrients (i.e.,
nitrogen and phosphorus) and water quality.
Nutritients can cause ecological collapse
The nutrients are essential for
ensuring crop yield and health, but after running off by rainwater or snow melt,
they become pollutants in surface water bodies where they accelerate eutrophication
and can even lead to ecological collapses.
a long history of caring about soil and water quality issues. Since 1990s, a long-term soil and water monitoring
program (JOVA) has been implemented to monitor effects of agriculture on water
quality in 10 typical agricultural production systems across Norway.
program is run by the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (Nibio),
which has been playing a critical role in soil and water research and providing useful recommendations to
farmers and the authorities for sustainable soil and water management, both in
Norway and internationally.
A hope for 30 more years of research program
The JOVA program has played an important role not
only in water monitoring but also building up the connections between
researchers and farmers and being used as a basis for providing valuable advice
to farmers and authorities. The JOVA program leader Marianne Bechmann says that
this year is JOVA’s 30-year anniversary and she hopes that the program can serve
the country for at least another 30 years.
Several Nibio researchers are also part
of a larger Nordic network to address the countries’ common challenges in catchment
monitoring and improvement of water quality.
also active on the international stage for sustainable nutrient and water
quality management. For instance, Nibio is an active player in an EU Horizon
funded research project «Econutri» for developing innovative concepts and technologies for ecologically
sustainable nutrient management in agriculture aiming to prevent, mitigate and eliminate
pollution in soils, water and air.
Seven Nibio researchers from both
agricultural production and environmental protection sides are undertaking
important tasks in this project. The researchers are seeking ways to
improve and optimizie technologies to recycle nutrients from organic materials
such as livestock manure to increase nutrient recovery and use efficiency for
both greenhouse and field crops.
They are also assessing how various mitigation
measures, also increasingly referred to as nature-based solutions, work to reduce
nitrogen and phosphorus emissions at the landscape level, using a systematic
approach for data analyses.
According to the Nibio’s team leader for «Econutri» Ingunn Vågen, both
the optimized technologies for nutrient recovery and the systematic assessment
of mitigation measures will greatly help towards reducing nutrient losses from
soils and improving water quality in both Norway and Europe.
A need for communication between researchers, farmers and policy makers
Climate change, especially the associated increasing
numbers of extreme dry and wet events, has caused many challenges to both food
production and water protection. This calls for the increase of integrated soil
and water research for climate-smart agriculture to address the national and global
challenges in food security and environmental sustainability.
is also a continuous need for communication between researchers, farmers, authorities,
and policy makers to pave the way for a sustainable agriculture and society. The
challenges can only be addressed with the involvement of all relevant actors to
solve big issues such as the ecological collapse in the Oslofjord.