Unlocking the potential of soil science: EJP SOIL, a destination for state-of-the-art knowledge

Soil scientists are carrying the flame beyond EJP SOIL, allowing expertise to pave the way for progress in soil-related policies, making a lasting impact on advancing soil science.

Matthias Leonhard Maier, member of the Soil Mission secretariat - European Commission, sheds light on the importance of soil research and policy in the context of the European Commission's initiatives and the challenges ahead. First from the left in a panel discussion on the ‘Impact of the EJP SOIL’.

Soil has recently become more prominent in policy-making at various levels. When asked about the European Commission's keen interest in soil, Maier highlights that "There have been important policy-making attempts in the past, but political agreement was difficult to achieve while problems continued to accumulate on the ground. With the recent increase in attention comes the need for not only good research, which, of course, people have been doing all along, but also for policy-relevant research, which perhaps has not been a priority for most scientists in the past".

More attention on soil

The shift in attention in the field of soil science is driven by many factors such as climate policy and the growing recognition of soil's role in carbon sequestration. And unlike problems like air pollution and now also climate change, soil degradation is a slow-motion process, often invisible to the naked eye.

“It is only during catastrophic events like mudslides that soil problems become clearly visible. This ‘creeping catastrophe’ aspect makes soil-related issues easy to overlook, contributing to their past lack of attention in policymaking,” says Maier.

Maier states that the stars are increasingly aligned, paving the way for further progress in soil-related policies. He points to the Commission’s recent proposal for a Soil Monitoring Directive, anticipating its impact on advancing soil science and policy even further.

"Working in the Soil Mission secretariat, we try to keep up with most of what's going on in this area, and EJP SOIL has a bit of a special place in that landscape," Maier notes.

Carrying the flame of soil research beyond EJP SOIL

He emphasizes that alongside the Mission Soil, EJP SOIL remains a primary destination for those seeking the state-of-the-art soil science knowledge.

Maier is aware of EJP SOIL’s limited lifetime but is confident that the positive outcomes achieved can be sustained also beyond the upcoming year. He believes this is essential and assures that the Commission is eager to support the process.