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A nation that rebuilds its soils rebuild itself- an engineer’s perspective

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Neil Gray



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Nations can build and rebuild degraded soils to help address climate change and potentially improve the nutritional content of food if we change policies that allow the addition of safe mineral and organic wastes to soil. We present a framework that facilitates the transition from intensive conventional to more regenerative farming practices by considering soil’s natural cycles. Our paper is presented in three parts. Firstly, we consider that 'soil is living'; just like humans, the soil biome needs a balanced diet of macro and micronutrients as well as a nurturing environment. We simplify the soil science and take a systems approach which focuses on restoring soil’s natural circle to benefit both health (by increasing micronutrients in soil) and wealth (through climate change adaptation and mitigation). Secondly, we consider the scale of the problem of soil degradation and the timescales involved in rebuilding soils and barriers to implementation. Thirdly, we propose a potential framework which enables communities to identify what might be missing from soil’s natural cycle. This framework helps communities consider how they might change soil texture by addition and manipulation of both minerals and organic matter. We present an educational tool, ‘soil in a jar’ based on a narrative of nurturing soil which is designed to engage and inspire society to get their hands dirty. Communities can use the framework to produce locally specific solutions to restore their soil's natural cycle and rebuild their local and national economies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Johnson KL, Gray ND, Stone W, Kelly BFJ, Fitzimons M, Clarke C, Blake L, Chivasa S, Mtambanengwe F, Mapfumo P, Baker A, Beckmann S, Dominelli L, Neal AL, Gwandu T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Soil Security

Year: 2022

Volume: 7

Print publication date: 01/06/2022

Online publication date: 25/03/2022

Acceptance date: 22/03/2022

Date deposited: 06/04/2022

ISSN (electronic): 2667-0062

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.soisec.2022.100060


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