21st World Congress of Soil Science

Agriculture Minister Mr. Williams (left) of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (simply Saint Vincent), TaiwanICDF specialist Chun-Chun Huang (middle), and TARI research fellow Chien-Hui Hsu (right) present the research outcomes of the “Saint Vincent Soil Fertility Survey” at the 21st WCSS.
 
The 2018 World Congress of Soil Science (WCSS) organized by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) and held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, gathered over 3,000 participants from over 100 countries. At this quadrennial international event, staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, and Rural Transformation of Saint Vincent and I were responsible for publicizing and presenting to the world the outcomes of the “Project for Strengthening Farmers’ Organizations and Improving Fruit and Vegetable Production Technology in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines”. I was anxious, for fear that I would embarrass TaiwanICDF. I still remember I was an alternative service draftee then and thought I was a local. Every day I took the local bus to and from soil labs in relation to the project. Day after day I worked and grew with project team members, hoping that Sant Vincent could improve their capacity in fundamental scientific research. Two years have gone in the blink of an eye. Although participation in the WCSS was not part of the project, the enthusiasm, dedication, and self-motivation for soil science of the local staff ignited my research soul. I was unable to catch up with the project at the beginning, thanks to the selfless sharing and onsite instruction of experts including Chu-Chung Chen and Chien-Hui Hsu of the Agricultural Division of the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), I managed to keep up with the project. Gradually, all three parties of the project team found that we were “doing the right thing” and kept learning how to “do things right”.
 
I still remember how I was stunned by the organizer’s efforts when we arrived at the event venue. A two-meter-tall soil cross section was erected at the entrance to demonstrate the soil of Brazil. It was sensational and interesting. Many international organizations, such as the EU, the WFO, and the IUSS, set stalls there for promotion, and instrument makers and publishers as well. There were also soil samples of different countries and artworks made with soil as pigments. It is worth mentioning the organizer’s efforts to promote environmental protection and paperless operation to reduce the carbon footprint. Taiwan also sent a team to participate in the soil investigation and justification competition this year. Although they were not awarded, it is certain that they much learn lots of valuable experience and broadened their international vision.
 
At the congress, we presented the outcomes of the “Saint Vincent Soil Fertility Survey”. They were the preliminary achievements of Taiwan’s aid for Saint Vincent to build their soil laboratories to investigate the fertility of local soil. Although it was just a survey report on the soil’s basic properties, through the presentation of project partner Mr. Williams on behalf of TaiwanICDF, the Ministry of Agriculture of Saint Vincent, and TARI, we presented to the world how we combined the external resources donated to Saint Vincent by the EU and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with TARI’s expertise in agriculture science to help Saint Vincent develop soil research capacity and local staff engage in self-learning and self-improvement in collaboration with local agricultural specialists and promoters to pursue sustainable development of Saint Vincent. We have also won much critical acclaim for our efforts.
 
At the conference, we also foresaw that the combination of big data and artificial intelligence with soil science will be one of the major development trends. This will include the development of prediction models and farming models by combining soil big data with AI to deal with the deteriorating climate change. For example, we can develop the model for predicting changes in global soil carb stock, the effectiveness of water in soil in the environment, and the model of soil mobility.
 
In addition, the brainstorming session was a special design of the congress. It was designed for participants to make recommendations for resolving issues including food security and energy depletion across the globe, as explained by the IUSS chairperson: “Either to mitigate global warming or reduce the impact of climate change, soil plays an exceptionally important role. Through soil research and appropriate management, many problems can be improved.” This corresponds to how Brazil has been successfully eradicating poverty and hunger with its agricultural policies and tropical agriculture R&D in the last four decades to become one of the world-leading food exporting countries. In the future, Brazil will focus on carbon fixation and storage in soil to achieve reasonable economic efficiency with the least damage of the environment to pursue sustainable and circular soil use.