Soil Science in Tropical and Temperate Regions - Differences and Similarities.
Alfred Hartemink, ISRIC - World Soil Information, PO Box 353, Wageningen, 6700 AJ, Netherlands
The range of conditions under which soils are formed is as diverse in the tropical as in the temperate regions, but soil science has a different history and focus in the two regions. In Western Europe soil fertility research started for there was little spare land, whereas in the Russian Empire and the USA land was ample available and soil survey developed. Since the Second World War, soil science has benefited from new instrumentation and developments in other sciences. Many subdisciplines and specializations have been formed and soil science has broadened its scope in the temperate regions. Currently, much research is externally funded and has a problem-solving character. Soil research in tropical regions started later and its scope has not changed much. The feeding of the ever increasing population, land degradation and the maintenance of soil fertility are still important research themes. The amount of research in environmental protection, soil contamination and ecosystem health is small. More is known about the soil resources in the temperate regions than in the tropical regions despite the fact that one-third of the soils of the world are in the tropics and these support more than three-quarters of the world population. Common interests are the development of sustainable land management systems and land quality indicators, quantification of soil properties and processes, fine tuning of models, the sequestration of C in agricultural soils, and the optimum use of agricultural inputs to minimize environmental degradation and maximize profit. Mineral surpluses are a concern in temperate soils under agriculture whereas the increase of soil fertility is an important research topic in many tropical regions. From a soil nutrient perspective it appears that soil fertility research in tropical regions is all about alleviating poverty whereas in the temperate regions it is mainly about alleviating abundance and wealth.