Dr. Jerry L. Hatfield speaks about soil as a living organism. One acre of healthy soil contains about 10,000 lbs of healthy biological material beneath the soil’s surface from fungi to bacteria to earthworms and everything else in between. If you combine the weight of all those living organisms you have about the same weight as two African elephants. It takes as much to feed those two elephants as it takes to feed all of the organisms in one acre of soil.
From now until 2060, we will need to produce as much food as we have in the last 500 years. What we eat – other than what comes out of the ocean – is all derived from soil. Soil security is food security, so to continue to feed the world’s population we need to make sure that our soil has the capability to continue producing these crops. If we talk about agriculture as part of ecology we have a much different appreciation of how these organism interact and how we change them.
Dr. Hatfield is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America and Past-President of the American Society of Agronomy and member of the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union and Soil and Water Conservation Society. He is the Laboratory Director of the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and co-PI on the Agriculture Model Improvement and Intercomparison Project. He is the recipient of numerous awards and was elected to the ARS Hall of Fame in 2014 for his research on improving agriculture and environmental quality and received the Hugh Hammond Bennett award in 2016 for his national and international work on soil conservation from the Soil and Water Conservation Society. His personal research focuses on quantifying the interactions among the components of the soil-plant-atmosphere system to quantify resilience of cropping systems to climate change and development of techniques to enhance decision-making for agriculture. He leads the agriculture sector for the National Climate Assessment, a member of the IPCC process that received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, and lead on the agriculture indicators of climate change for the USGCRP. He is the author or co-author of 437 refereed publications and the editor of 17 monographs. Learn more at soilhealthinstitute.org.