Healthy soil, healthy planet: Soil quality key for improved crop production and resilient climate

06/09/2022 - Healthy, high-quality soils lead to more robust and stable crop yields and are key for adapting to a changing climate, a new study finds. In China, appropriate efforts to improve soil quality may reduce the decline in crop production induced by climate change by 20%.
Healthy soil, healthy planet: Soil quality key for improved crop production and resilient climate
Healthy soil is key to both a resilient climate and future food security. Photo: Steven Weeks / Unsplash

“Soils are often solely regarded as carbon pools that respond to climate change and management. However, soil quality is crucial when it comes to both resilience to climate change and future food security. The importance of soil quality for land productivity and thus the potential to sequester carbon in ecosystems has not been sufficiently considered so far,” says Christoph Müller of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), co-author of the paper.

In the paper published in Nature Climate Change, a team of international scientists from China, the UK and Germany addressed how the interactions between soil quality - defined as the capacity of the soil to provide nutrients and water, and to support crop productivity - and climate change influence food output productivity from croplands.

The lead author, Professor Mingsheng Fan of China Agriculture University, explains the main findings: “We found that across crops and environmental conditions, high-quality soils reduced the sensitivity of crop yield to climate variability, leading to higher and more stable crop yields, and improving also the outcome for yields under climate change, compared to low-quality soils."

The study also shows that improving soil quality will be a critical strategy for adapting to climate change. It highlights that better management of soils will enhance yields as well as, potentially, improve carbon sequestration, water holding potential and soil biodiversity. This will be key when it comes to feeding a growing population, with the global food production forecasted to increase by as much as 60-100% by 2050 to meet projected food demand.


Lei Qiao, Xuhui Wang, Pete Smith, Jinlong Fan, Yuelai Lu, Bridget Emmett, Rong Li, Stephen Dorling, Haiqing Chen, Shaogui Liu, Tim G. Benton, Yaojun Wang, Yuqing Ma, Rongfeng Jiang, Fusuo Zhang, Shilong Piao, Christoph Mϋller, Huaqing Yang, Yanan Hao, Wangmei Li, Mingsheng Fan (2022): Soil quality both increases crop production and improves resilience to climate change. Nature Climate Change [DOI: 10.1038/s41558-022-01376-8]


PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07


Twitter: @PIK_Climate