Providing Today's Bounty and Sustaining Land Resources for Future Generations.
To develop procedures, strategies and systems that maintain or enhance beneficial soil
properties and environmental quality, retain a favorable ecological balance, and sustain
Sustainable agricultural systems and all land uses require a well functioning soil resource.
Soil's capacity to control water and solute flow, to serve as a nutrient reserve and the primary
location for nutrient cycling processes, to act as a purifying, filtering and buffering media for
waste, and to function as a structural support media enable it to function as the central
resource to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality,
and support human health and habitation. These functions are not only important to
agricultural issues, but directly affect many of our other current concerns - sustainable
development, biodiversity, global change and environmental quality. Mismanagement of the
soil resource has lead to the collapse of civilizations.
Agriculture understands the importance of soil and desires to maintain it. However,
sometimes in its desire to maximize yield rather than productivity (output per unit input),
agriculture has exacerbated some problems. It is imperative that there be a balance between
the short-term utilization of the soil resource, which can lead to abuse and misuse, with its
long-term sustainability. Intensification of agricultural production in response to population
growth and future food demand will place unprecedented stresses on soil and other
There is a need to holistically assess the soil resource to achieve the appropriate balance
between utilization and sustainability. There exists no comprehensive, coordinated approach
for this assessment. Therefore, land managers and resource conservationists are not able to
qualitatively or quantitatively evaluate (with necessary accuracy) the effects of land use
practices or management decisions on the soil resource.
Assessments without management strategies to improve degraded soils or maintain good soil
stewardship are of little value. Management strategies must consider the relationship between
soils and their surrounding environment and use in its totality. Best management practices that
focus on one factor to the exclusion of others do not lead to optimum soil resource use. We
may, for example, improve the short term fertility of soils at the expense of environmental
degradation or improve water quality by inappropriately curtailing food and fiber production.
With appropriate management systems we can use our soils for productive purposes while
conserving, restoring, protecting, and enhancing their quality.
The purpose of the Soil Resource Assessment and Management National Program is to
identify, conduct, evaluate, and coordinate research and technology transfer activities
conducted by USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) scientists throughout the United
States. This provides a comprehensive, coordinated approach to develop management
strategies designed to restore, enhance, and protect the soil resource. These management
strategies must focus on sustainable systems that match plants, animals, tillage and other
manipulations with water supply, climate and soil conditions.
Other national programs address Soil Resource Assessment and Management issues.
Readers with an interest in specific topics may find additional information in these associated
national programs: Integrated Farming Systems; Water Quality and Management; Air
Quality; Global Change; Manure and Byproduct Utilization; Grazinglands Management;
Integrated Crop Production and Protection Systems; Animal Production Systems; Bioenergy
and Energy Alternatives; Plant Diseases; Crop and Commodity Pest Biology, Control, and
Quarantine; and Food Safety.