Minneapolis Convention Center, Registration Center
Ray R. Weil, Dept. Environmental Science & Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Soils Support Agriculture – But Can We Make Agriculture Support Soils? Agriculture is the main technology which allowed the human species to dominate this planet. Nearly all agriculture takes place in soils. Agriculture uses soil primarily to produce plants which in turn either feed people or feed animals that people use or produce other products in humans can use such as biofuels, fiber and chemicals. Soils support agriculture and by providing agricultural plants with the rooting environment they need to successfully capture solar energy and turn it into food. Soils supply water and nutrients to plants, but also provide the habitat in which plant roots can interact with myriads soil organisms from small animals like nematodes to bacteria, archaea and fungi. Plants grown in soils have such complex relationships with the organisms in soils that a plant can hardly be considered a plant without the soil ecosystem that surrounds its roots. Innovative farmers and scientist are finding ways to manage plants to improve soil health as well as feed people, without diminishing the other ecosystem services soils provide such as regulation and purification of water and regulation of gases in the atmosphere.