BSSS Participate in IUSS Centennial

May 29, 2024 | Blog, Featured Blog, News

The British Society of Soil Science was pleased to be a part of the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) centennial which took place in May. Over 1500 delegates attended the event at the Palazzo dei Congressi in Florence to celebrate this fantastic milestone, but to also highlight how we are building on from 100 years of work and commitment to soil.   

The event was an opportunity for people from different disciplines, policymakers, stakeholders, institutions, and associations from all over the world to come together and to discuss achievements and future challenges. At its heart, the conference highlighted the role of soils in sustaining society and the environment. There were over 100 parallel sessions where delegates could learn, discuss and engage with different projects and stakeholders. 

The British Society of Soil Science was delighted to host a fireside chat panel session on ‘Soil health for people and planet: Leveraging policy, integrating governance, exploring collaboration and increasing engagement to build a resilient, sustainable future.’ The session was chaired by BSSS President, Dr Jack Hannam, and featured a high profile panel of The Honourable Penny Wensley, Former National Soils Advocate of Australia, Leigh Ann Winowiecki, Co-Lead of the Coalition of Action for Soil Health (CA4SH), and Dr Irene Heuser, from the IUCN World Commission. We were pleased to engage with the audience through the power of debate. Delegates had the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the panel, to aid with knowledge exchange and raising awareness of best practice in soil health. 

The panel discussed:  

  • Where there were gaps in current international conventions related to soil, 
  • How this leads to lack of soil protection outside the focus of agriculture 
  • How a national strategy for soil in Australia was developed by co-production with multiple national and federal actors, 
  • Whether we need stronger legislation, 
  • How to reduce the burden of policy development by building on existing initiatives and instruments to create stronger legislation for soils. 

One of the panelists, The Honourable Penelope Wensley, was later awarded the IUSS Distinguished Service Medal. 

Jack chaired another soil policy session with BSSS, CA4SH and the “4 per mille” initiative on Soil Ambitions: Driving soil health into national and international policy. This covered perspectives from soil policy in the EU, notably the forthcoming Soil Health Monitoring Law.  She also chaired a session on AI in soil mapping (Digital Soil Mapping), highlighting cutting edge perspectives from around the world on tools, data constraints, and applications. 

The IUSS Centennial was a seminal event to be a part of. We were delighted that the Society was embedded in the event, where we highlighted our work supporting our mission and vision, connecting with many professionals and soil scientists from across the world. It was fantastic to chair the BSSS panel session on soil policy and governance, and a separate session on AI in soil mapping. Both sessions sparked much debate around what we know, how we can learn from others and what is needed to take both science and policy forward to drive further investment in soil.  

 The panel session highlighted some key points:  

  • Be bold and ambitious in setting soil policy vision and the direction of travel, but be aware it is a long haul 
  • Treat soil as you would like to be treated yourself 
  • We all have a responsibility for action now to realise good soil health and protection


Jack Hannam, BSSS President

BSSS Immediate Past-President and UK Director for Sustainable Land Management at Arcadis, Bruce Lascelles, delivered a session around best practice in land use management through urban planning and development. Landscape-led developments need to consider soil as an essential resource when planning and developing sites. Soil is a finite resource which is integral to combatting Climate and Biodiversity Emergencies, establishing biodiversity net gain and central to good natural capital accounting, not waste to be sent to landfill. 

We were pleased to further promote our Invest in Soil project, following the initial launch at COP28. Invest in Soil is an opportunity for us to share the best, most impactful case studies on the value of soil. To ensure governments commit to implementing policy and the financing to do so, our case studies highlight how investing in soil has positive economic and knock-on impacts. Stakeholders at the conference could publicise their projects by placing a sticker on the map and submitting details to us. We hope to publish these projects on the case studies page in due course. 

The IUSS Centennial was a great platform to showcase the British Society of Soil Science on the world stage and highlight the impact we are making in this space. We achieved this through involvement and engagement in various sessions and discussions during the conference programme, as well as through our Invest in Soil Project which gained further support from stakeholders. It was a jam-packed event with speakers bringing perspectives and research throughout the world, so it was great to be an active part of this landmark event and experience and witness the momentum that is gaining for soils internationally. Actively participating in events like these are essential to our goals as a society; where we can add to the debate and see the progress and innovations that are being made to ensure the sustainable future of our soils. 


Andy Morris, BSSS Executive Director

There was a clear theme during many of the sessions around effective communication, engagement and advocacy. Clear and effective communication is needed to address the challenge of general lack of awareness and appreciation of soils, but also to ensure greater impact with policymakers who often have stretched time and resources. Hopefully this will lead to greater investment in soil for people and planet. It was clear from the incredible research presented at the conference that we already have effective strategies for sustainable soil management that can repair and build degraded lands for future resilient soils. Now it is time to put the research into action!

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