3 May 2022

At the end of July, a global meeting on the link between healthy soil and nutrition

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From 26 to 29 July, hundreds of representatives from the political, agricultural, environmental, scientific and industrial world will participate in the Global Symposium on Soil for nutrition. Until the end of May, a call of abstracts to propose reports to be presented during the days of the event. Here the main themes

by Emanuele Isonio

Food starts from healthy soils. One fact should never be forgotten: 95% of our food nutrients come from soils that have a natural ability to support crops and forage grasses. Sustainable management of soil fertility is therefore the main element on which food systems depend. If we consider that there are less than ten years to 2030 when the Sustainable Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda should be reached, this explains the urgency to pay attention to the factors that guide the performance of agri-food systems.

The possibility of overcoming global challenges such as food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition, environmental degradation pass from the correct understanding and sustainable management of soil nutrients. With this in mind, the Global Symposium on Soil for Nutrition is scheduled, in virtual format, from 26 to 29 July. To organize it, the FAO together with the Global Soil Partnership, the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) and the International Network on Fertilizers Analysis. 

Fill in the gaps and propose solutions

“The objectives indicated by the Sustainable Goals – explain the promoters – require understanding where and how soil nutrients are found in the world, how we can achieve their sustainable management, why and how the improper and excessive use of soil nutrients pollutes and climate change worsens, because soil problems must be present in our policies and laws ”.

The Global Symposium on Soils for Nutrition will therefore have the task of reviewing the state of the art on the role of soil fertility in providing sufficient, high quality, safe and more nutritious food for plants, animals and people. It should also identify critical knowledge gaps and provide the basis for discussion among policy makers, food manufacturers, scientists, the fertilizer industry, practitioners and other stakeholders on creating solutions that can deliver a more agri-food system. capable of improving health and well-being while protecting the environment.

The dangers of soil nutritional imbalance

The nutritional imbalance, FAO always reminds, is one of the ten main threats to the soil that affect its health globally. In fact, it leaves behind it important economic, environmental and social effects: “Even if 195 million tons of fertilizers were applied in 2020 and the annual application rate increases by 2% every year, hunger still affects 768 million people. Compared to 2019, it has also grown by 16% ”is emphasized in the presentation of the Symposium in July.

The same document reminds us, among other things, that the improper and excessive use of fertilizers increases climate change and the degradation of land and water resources. “The sum of global nitrogen losses represents a loss of agricultural fertilizer resources worth $ 200 billion a year. The improper use of nitrogen also produces costs for human health and the impact on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of at least 400 billion dollars per year”.

The structure of the event

The Symposium will be attended by representatives of international organizations, scientists and professionals working in related fields. There will also be representatives of NGOs, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities and representatives of industry and agricultural sectors. The works will be organized to address four main themes:

  • situation and trends of the global nutrient balance of the soil;
  • sustainable soil management for food security;
  • impact of soil nutrient management on the environment and climate change;
  • soil fertility governance.

The event will open with a multisectoral panel that will address the four themes. Parallel sessions on the four themes will then be held, as well as a series of side events. Among them, there is also a photographic contest on the “deficiency of soil nutrients in crops and livestock”.

The details of the call for abstracts

To enrich the discussion and the contributions to be presented during the Symposium, the organizing committee has also launched a call for abstracts: interested parties will be able to present proposals that anticipate the contents of presentations to be made, on one of the 4 themes of the event, at the end of July. The abstracts must be written in English and for a maximum of 3000 characters, spaces excluded. The deadline for submission will expire on May 31st. Within the following month they will be chosen by the scientific committee of the Global Symposium which will inform the selected authors.