The British Society of Soil Science

The British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) or `BS cubed` as it is fondly known was founded in 1947 by a number of eminent British soil scientists. It was formed with the aims: to advance the study of soil; to be open to membership from all those with an interest in the study and uses of soil; and to issue an annual publication. Nowadays BSSS is an established international membership organisation and charity committed to the study of soil in its widest aspects. It is funded primarily through subscriptions and income from publications

Company details

Building 42a, Cranfield University , Cranfield , Bedfordshire MK43 0AL United Kingdom

Locations Served

Business Type:
Professional association
Industry Type:
Soil and Groundwater
Market Focus:
Internationally (various countries)
Year Founded:
1947

Nowadays BSSS is an established international membership organisation and charity committed to the study of soil in its widest aspects. It is funded primarily through subscriptions and income from publications. The Society acts as a forum for the exchange of ideas and provides a framework for representing the views of soil scientists to other organisations and decision making bodies. It promotes research by organising several conferences each year and by the publication of its two scientific journals, the European Journal of Soil Science, and Soil Use and Management. It promotes education through a number of initiatives aimed at schools, colleges and universities. The Society has a regular and varied programme of scientific conferences on a wide range of soil-related issues.

In 2010 the Society became an incorporated charity, merging with the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists which continues to deliver the needs of the Society's professional membership.

The British Society of Soil Science encourages anyone with an interest in soil, whether this interest lies in the soil itself or its wider use within the environment, to join the society. There is a small membership fee, with discounts for students and those from low income countries.

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The Earth's dynamic skin: Did you know, soils are the dynamic skin of the Earth, formed by the interaction of minerals, organic materials, organisms, water and air”?  Although soils may look uniform in the hand, at microscopic level they consist of complex structures of solid grains separated by pores, channels and chambers. The solids are chemically active and are slowly, but continually changing in composition and shape. The spaces between these grains (pores)  are filled with constantly changing mixtures of air and water and are inhabited by huge numbers of microscopic organisms. Many soil solids come from rocks. which are weathered when exposed at the earth’s surface. Weathering involves breaking rocks down into small grains, and is caused by water from rain and changing temperatures. Some of the broken down rocks dissolve in rainwater and are washed away. Others remain as soil solids, but as new soil particles.  There are three main types of soil particle these are Sand, Silt and Clay which are different sizes.  The proportions of different sized grains give soils a distinctive feel, or texture. Rub moist soil between finger and thumb to feel the texture. Sand grains, mostly from weathered rock, are coarse and gritty; clays are fine-grained and feel sticky. Intermediate- sized silt grains feel silky. Clay soils are mouldable but sandy soils fall apart.  You also find 'Organic matter' in soils, this comes from living organisms, such as plant and animal remains, broken down and consumed by the vast numbers of tiny specialist microbes and animals. Their activities release nutrients for re-use by successor plants and animals.

Did you know that monkeys, parrots, elephants and humans all sometimes eat soil because of the medicinal benefits that some clays provide? The maintenance of communities of soil organisms and their organic substrates are crucial for maintaining soils in good condition. Organic supplements and the retention of crop residues benefit soil populations by fostering soil aeration and water retention. Soil organisms release nutrients from their substrate gradually, not in a sudden pulse as from synthetic fertilisers. Irrespective of whether there is an organic or conventional approach adopted, organic inputs are important for those keen to promote best practice in soil management. Earthworms have long been esteemed. Darwin's last scientific work, for instance, concerned their biology and beneficial effects. Commercial ‘vermiculture' kits are now available as aids to compost making and structural improvement for garden soils. Road embankments and restored mining tips have benefited from inoculation by spraying with suspensions of earthworm eggs, helping to accelerate soil development. Earthworm populations
are used as indicators of general soil health.

Did you know that soils contribute greatly to the twenty four recognised Ecosystem Services? Increases in human populations and prosperity mean that traditional demands on soils, especially for food and raw materials, are intensifying. There are also new demands that arise from industrialisation and urbanisation. Many of these stem from the abuse of the environment. Soil buffering and transformation capacities are used to smooth out, or cover up, damage by humans. Great demands are made on soils to process waste. Sewage sludge and slurry from intensive livestock production units are spread on and ploughed into soils. Soils incorporate these materials, rendering them harmless, even productive. Soil caps are used to restore contaminated and derelict areas left by industry and mining. Soils cover, adsorb, detoxify and  mitigate effects of contaminants; re-vegetation helps landscape sites. Rainwater runoff from roofs and asphalt can be heavy and irregular. Management of unsealed soils is important for flood reduction. Increasing human production of CO2 may be countered by managing soils to increase their organic matter content, thus storing carbon.