31/08/2018
The Soils of Argentina
As part of an international collection about different soils of the world, and with the coordination and participation of CONICET researchers, the book “The Soils of Argentina” was published.
Gerardo Rubio. Photo: CONICET Photography/ Verónica Tello.

The well-known fertility of the soils of the humid Pampa has always been iconic in terms of Argentine food production capacity for their own inhabitants and the rest of the world. However, the mollisols –the soils of the ecosystems of pastures of the Pampas region– are only one fraction of the whole surface of Argentina.

Recently, researchers Gerardo Rubio and Raul Lavado from the Council at the Instituto de Investigaciones en Biociencias Agrícolas y Ambientales (INBA, CONICET-UBA) and Fernando X. Pereyra from the SEGEMAR coordinated and edited an interdisciplinary book.  It is about the work of experts who offered one description of the different soils of Argentina, its climate, vegetation, geomorphology, and diagnosis on current problems.

“The general editor of the collection on soils of the world of the Springer editorial, Alfred Hartemink, who I met in international meetings, contacted me to be in charge of the coordination and edition of the work on Argentina. Our country is particularly extensive and there are different groups of specialists”, Rubio explains.

Despite the initial complexity of the task, the work conducted surpassed the editor’s expectations. “At first, we had to describe the different soils of the country so we divided it into regions and placed the specialists in each of them. We also added an overview of the history of soil science in our country and how the different shaping factors of the soil act: geology, morphology, climate and vegetation. Besides, we added chapters linked to the use of those soils for agriculture and the effects of erosion and the use of contaminants. Finally, in the last chapter we proposed the topics to study and future worries in the field of soil science”, Rubio affirms.

To illustrate the variety and diversity of the Argentine soils, it is necessary to consider that along its territory there are 12 orders of soils internationally recognized, which is not very common. This wealth is also translated into a huge productive potential.

“Argentina has the capacity to feed a population ten times larger than its number of inhabitants. This is, in part, due to the wealth of the Pampas Region’s mollisols, where several of the most fertile soils of the planets are, although not only because of it.

To be able to preserve the fertility and productivity of those soils depends largely on its management and present and future conservation. The book emphasizes the fact that these soils continue to be subjected to the laws of nature and the action of men can deteriorate them, something that currently happens.

“Anyway, the deterioration has not always been an irreversible process. There are sustainable management practices that preserve the properties of the soils and make them productive at the same time. If they are not applied, it is not for lack of knowledge accumulated, it is for several causes, such as the absence of enough regulations or for the way we exploit the land. But this is not a dichotomy between conservation and use. Our soils can serve to collaborate to ensure food security in the world without damaging its natural fertility. We have to promote political and economic measures for good management”, Rubio concludes.

Rubio  G, Lavado RS, Pereyra (eds) 2019 The Soils of Argentina. World Soils Book Series. Springer Int. Publ. ISBN 978-3-319-76851

By Miguel Faigón