Advances in Soil Science: Volume 20 by M. Becker
The key to sustaining the soil resource base is to maintain, or enhance, soil quality. Soil quality cannot be seen or measured directly from the soil alone but is inferred from soil characteristics and soil behavior under defined conditions. In essence, the quality of soils is analogous to the health of humans, and just as there is no single characteristic that can be measured to quantify a person's health, there is no single measurement that can quantify soil quality. However, there are certain characteristics, particularly when considered together, that are good indicators. Soil quality, just as human health, can be maintained or enhanced by good management practices; and seriously degraded-sometimes irrevers ibly-with poor practices. Soil quality is also important because it has direct and indirect effects on air quality and water quality. While the enhancement of soil quality does not always assure parallel improvements in the quality of air and, particularly, water resources, this is often the case. However, soil deg radation is invariably accompanied by degraded qualities of both air and water resources. The consensus among many scientists is that the greatest challenge is not increasing production, but preventing serious deterioration of the soil and water resource base so that the production level can be sustained.