Newswise — September 12, 2022 — Dr. Jo Handelsman will discuss “Soil Erosion and Public Engagement” as part of the Nyle C. Brady Frontiers of Soil Science Lectureship plenary lecture for the Communication and Public Engagement for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

The meeting is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

According to Handelsman, “Soil is no longer a renewable resource. Many locations in the world are losing topsoil 10 to 100 times faster than it is generated. At current rates of erosion, large tracts of the world’s most productive farmland will be devoid of topsoil by the end of this century. This will render the Earth unable to sustain food production for its burgeoning population.”

Moreover, “soil is Earth’s largest terrestrial carbon sink,” says Handelsman. “Soil stockpiles three times as much carbon than the entire atmosphere and four times as much as all of Earth’s vegetation. Given the loss of 133 billion tons of carbon from soil in the last two centuries, soil offers a vast repository for carbon deposition. This makes it a key player in addressing climate change.”

“Erosion is a problem we know how to address,” she continues. “As soil scientists, we have the responsibility to engage with the public, politicians, and international policymakers to find ways to implement soil conservation practices at the local and global scales.”

“I look forward to sharing my conclusions presented in A World Without Soil with the members of SSSA as a way to accelerate the soil conservation movement that is so critical to the Earth’s future,” she says. (A World Without Soil is Handelman’s book that presents the soil erosion crisis for a general audience.)

Dr. Handelsman’s research seeks to understand how soil microorganisms cooperate with and antagonize each other, and she is known for pioneering the field of functional metagenomics, a term she coined. Handelsman’s lab discovered several new antibiotics while studying the role of small molecules as signals in soil microbial communities.

She is founder of Tiny Earth, a global consortium of college instructors and students dedicated to discovering new antibiotics from soil bacteria. She is currently director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and a Vilas Research Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She previously served as a science advisor to President Barack Obama.

For more information about the Communication and Public Engagement for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meetingvisit are invited to attend the conference. Pre-registration by October 25, 2022 is required.