Soils and the future of food: Challenges and opportunities for feeding nine billion people

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


In 2011, our planet welcomed the seven billionth human, born into a global society that is more long lived, technologically connected, and urban than any time in Earth’s history. Depending on where she is raised, this child will experience a future of almost limitless possibilities, joined effortlessly to a stream of new choices and ideas-or she may strive simply for access to food, the most basic of human needs. But regardless of her geographic origin or socioeconomic status, it is very likely that she will live in a bustling city as she grows and will depend on a nearby market for sustenance, physically and mentally disconnected from the soil and natural resources that nourish her. The start of the twenty-first century buzzed with optimism, as scientific advances allowed humanity to consider a once-unthinkable future: urban skyscrapers that harbor vertical hydroponic farms, livestock fed on algae biofuel by-products, and meat cultured in vitro from living stem cells. However, despite the real promise and possibilities that these technologies provide, soil remains the single most important medium in which we grow food, now and for the foreseeable future. By 2045, when the seven billionth child reaches age 34, she will experience a world that is substantially more crowded, warmer, less biodiverse, and less forested than when she arrived, as she shares the soil’s limited bounty with two billion new people who also dream of a long and happy life. Her charge then, as ours, will be to ensure that expansion and intensification of agricultural production will meet the needs of the future without compromising the very life support systems on which her children and grandchildren depend.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Soil Underfoot
Subtitle of host publicationInfinite Possibilities for a Finite Resource
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781466571570
ISBN (Print)9781466571563
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Engineering


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