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A nation that rebuilds its soils rebuilds itself- an engineer's perspective

Johnson, Karen L. and Gray, Neil D. and Stone, Wendy and Kelly, Bryce F.J. and Fitzsimons, Mark F. and Clarke, Cathy and Blake, Lynsay and Chivasa, Stephen and Mtambanengwe, Florence and Mapfumo, Paul and Baker, Andy and Beckmann, Sabrina and Dominelli, Lena and Neal, Andrew L. and Gwandu, Tariro (2022) 'A nation that rebuilds its soils rebuilds itself- an engineer's perspective.', Soil Security, 7 . p. 100060.


Nations can build and rebuild degraded soils to help address climate change and potentially improve the nutritional content of food if we change policies that allow the addition of safe mineral and organic wastes to soil. We present a framework that facilitates the transition from intensive conventional to more regenerative farming practices by considering soil's natural cycle. Our paper is presented in three parts. Firstly, we consider that 'soil is living'; just like humans, the soil biome needs a balanced diet of macro and micronutrients as well as a nurturing environment. We simplify the soil science and take a systems approach which focuses on restoring soil's natural cycle to benefit both health (by increasing micronutrients in soil) and wealth (through climate change adaptation and mitigation). Secondly, we consider the scale of the problem of soil degradation and the timescales involved in rebuilding soils and barriers to implementation. Thirdly, we propose a potential framework which enables communities to identify what might be missing from soil's natural cycle. This framework helps communities consider how they might change soil texture by addition and manipulation of both minerals and organic matter. We present an educational tool, ‘soil in a jar’ based on a narrative of nurturing soil which is designed to engage and inspire society to get their hands dirty. Communities can use the framework to produce locally specific solutions to restore their soil's natural cycle and rebuild their local and national economies.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
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Publisher statement:© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Date accepted:22 March 2022
Date deposited:15 June 2022
Date of first online publication:11 April 2022
Date first made open access:15 June 2022

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