A History of World Soil Day and Overview of Climate Smart Agriculture by Dr. Rattan Lal


I’m Dr. Lal, professor of Soil Science at
the School of Environment and Natural Resources, and my professional interest is soil health,
soil carbon dynamics- so physical quality- and soil carbon sequestration in relation
to climate change with the hope that soil and agriculture can become solutions to global
issues. World Soils Day is celebrated on the birthday
of the late king of Thailand, his excellency Bhumibol Adulyadej. It means in English, Bhumi is “soil”,
Adulya is “unique”, “dej” is protector, force. Somebody who is a unique power force to protect
soil. So in 2002, the International Union of Soil
Sciences had its fourth year (every 4 years) World Congress held in Bangkok. Of course, the congress being held in Bangkok,
the King of Thailand at that time, in good health, attended the Congress, opened the
Congress, gave his blessing to the Congress, and at that time, the International Union
of Soil Sciences decided to honor him by celebrating the birthday, fifth of December, birthday
of the king, as the World Soil Day. So first of all, I do want to congratulate
all the audience that are meeting under the EPN auspices for the very auspicious day of
the World Soil Day. Subsequently, after the inauguration in 2002,
the king of Thailand took that issue to the United Nations. And with his support and request, 2015 was
declared the” year of the soils”. After the year of the soils, the International
Union of Soil Sciences decided that the decade from 2015-2024 is called the “decade of
the soils”. So the World Soils Day has a history of its
origins in the International Union of Soil Sciences, but I’m very pleased to say that
the United Nations, especially the FAO has taken it up. They celebrate it very enthusiastically. They also promoted the International year
of the Soil, and then IUSS has expanded this to a decade of the soils which will end in
2024, and the year 2024 is the centennial celebration of the International Union of
Soil Science. It started in Rome, the celebration will happen
again in Rome. So this is the brief history. I am very glad to see that the World Soils
Day is celebrated globally and that Ohio State is also celebrating it. Soils of the world, monitored to 1 meter depth,
contain about 1500 gigatons (‘giga’ is billion, nine zeros) tons of organic carbon. In addition to the organic carbon, soil also
has inorganic carbon, and that amounts to another about 750 or 800 gigatons to 1 meter
depth. So the 1 meter depth combined together, organic
and inorganic carbon, is about 2300 gigatons, billion tons of carbon. Compare that with the total carbon in plants,
trees, shrubs. It’s about 560 gigatons- alive, biomass. The detritus biomass is about 60 gigatons. So the total of detritus material and alive
is about 620 gigatons, which means a very small change in carbon storage in soil can
have a large impact on the atmosphere. So the goal of climate smart agriculture is
how to make soil and agriculture a sink of atmospheric carbon. Therefore, soil done properly and agriculture
done properly is a natural solution to climate change. And this message must be very clearly understood
on the World Soils Day- that climate smart agriculture. That’s why I’m very glad that EPN is celebrating
the World Soils Day. I wish I were there. But I am going to be in Spain, talking about
the same thing at the Climate Summit. And I hope that I will be able to accept your
invitation next time. Have a great day.

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