www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol21/iss3...iss3/art19/

Abstract, Ecology and Society, 2016

General knowledge of the small, invisible, or hidden organisms that make soil one of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth is thought to be scarce, despite their importance in food systems and agricultural production. We provide the first worldwide review of high-quality research that reports on farmers’ knowledge of soil organisms in agriculture. The depth of farmers’ knowledge varied; some farming communities held detailed local taxonomies and observations of soil biota, or used soil biological activity as indicators of soil fertility, while others were largely unaware of soil fauna. Elicitation of soil biota knowledge was often incidental to the main research goal in many of the reviewed studies. Farmers are rarely deliberately or deeply consulted by researchers on their existing knowledge of soil biota, soil ecology, or soil ecological processes. Deeper understanding of how farmers use and value soil life can lead to more effective development of collaborative extension programs, policies, and management initiatives directed at maintaining healthy, living soils.

Key words: agriculture; ethnoecology; ethnopedology; farmer knowledge; local knowledge; soil biota