Soils are complex living ecosystems that form the foundation of all terrestrial ecosystem services, mediating a myriad of biological, chemical, and physical processes that interact to cycle carbon and nutrients essential for plant growth, food and fiber production, and to remove contaminants from water and air. They are the key to both plant and animal production systems and to maintaining environmental health and agricultural and forest sustainability. They support food production, economic prosperity, and many more services essential for humanity, including supplying organisms that produce antibiotics, controlling the movement of water and chemical substances between the Earth and atmosphere, and acting as source and storage media for gases important to life, such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and methane. Thus it is important to understand predict and sometimes modify soil properties and processes, but it is not easy to see what is going on underground.
Therefore, through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, USDA is partnering with four directorates of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and four research councils within the United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) in a new Request for Applications for convergent, interdisciplinary research that transforms existing capabilities in understanding dynamic, near-surface soil processes through advances in sensor systems and modeling. This program fosters collaboration among the partner agencies and the researchers they support by combining resources and funding for the most innovative and high-impact projects that address their respective missions. All applications must include researchers from institutions in both the US and in the UK.