ISRIC celebrates 55 years of collaboration on soil information
For 55 years, ISRIC – World Soil Information has worked together with many international partners to achieve sustainable use of soil, one of our most precious global resources. Take a journey with us back in time to explore where five and a half decades of soil information service work has led.
Working together in protecting soils and securing food
In 1960 an increasing international concern grows over food security. The policy question is: can we continue to feed the growing world population?
To help answer that question, scientists need a soil map for the world to assess land potential for food production, and it doesn't exist. The International Soil Science Society, with professor F.A. Van Baren as Secretary General, adopts a resolution for the compilation of all existing soil survey material in the world. A major step towards an international project to create a world map of soils. And it works.
Left: Event Cover of 7th International Society of Soil Science 1st Day of Congress. Right: Professor Van Baren
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) begin a unique project in the service of humanity in 1966. It will last 20 years and 133 institutes worldwide work together.
Soil survey reports and maps are piling up. It's the pre-computer age. The insight quickly grows that this collection must be preserved and made freely accessible. The idea of an information centre for soils of the world was born.
The UNESCO council decides that the centre will be located in the Netherlands and professor F.A. van Baren becomes the first director. The International Soil Museum, the predecessor of the ISRIC - World Soil Information, consists of a library for maps and reports as well as a soil museum.
Fifty-five years later, the question ‘can we continue to feed the world's population?’ is still relevant. And new factors come into play, such as a changing climate. To inform policies and land management, soil information is as important today as it was 55 years ago.
ISRIC - World Soil Information is the World Data Centre for information about soils on a global scale and facilitates a Community of Practice for our peers: those who work with soil data and provide derived-information products. With our partners, we develop and share methods, standards and work towards interoperable procedures relating to the “soil information workflow” in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and other initiatives.
A graphic depicting the three scales of soil information demand which ISRIC works to meet.
Soil information for support of decision making
Using the power of knowledge and innovation as well as the strength of collaboration, ISRIC continues to help fulfil the dream of the soil science community of over half a century ago. A world where reliable and relevant soil information is freely-available to address global environmental and social challenges and leads to better decision making so that soils are managed sustainably and food is secured for all. That is our vision.