The news Glasgow has won its bid to host another prestigious international event against competition from Nanjing, Florence and Geneva appears to have slid ingloriously under the public radar.
Perhaps that's because said event is nothing to do with sport, but everything to do with dirt.
Yes, the World Congress of Soil Science is to take place at the Scottish Exhibition Centre, and it's expected to attract 3000 delegates from around the globe even though it's not until 2022. I'm told it is regarded as the premier soil event in the world. It's the first time the conference - held every four years and currently in South Korea - has ever been held in Scotland, and more than 80 years since it was last held in the UK. Glasgow's official bid, which won by a clear majority, ran to 136 pages and was presented by the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) and Glasgow City Marketing Bureau. In addition to exchanging current research with soil societies across the world, it hopes to engage ordinary members of the public in the importance of this precious asset, which most of us take for granted. A farmers' market and an allotment to highlight a growing awareness of its importance in food production - and in building up the immune system - are part of the Glasgow bid.
The soil that clings to freshly harvested produce is regarded as "nature's blanket" because it exposes us to a whole range of micro-organisms and helps build up the immune system. "Perfect" produce in supermarkets has broken that link, and encouraged a rise in allergies.
So snigger ye not. Soil is the most happening thing in food right now (the Tokyo restaurant Ne Quittez Pas has a soil-based menu, including real dirt risotto and dirt ice-cream, and it's going down well among those who believe it can help absorb toxins). On a serious note, it mitigates the effects of the dreaded climate change, and is crucial for biodiversity and food security.
Scotland has a lot to offer in terms of scientific knowledge (we have one of the most diverse ranges of soils in the world, and there's a soil archive at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen dating back to the 1930s, which helps chart changes in the all-important carbon content of soil over the years).
Given its vital function in food production when the world population is nearing seven billion, it came as something of a surprise to me to discover that there's no soil protection policy in existence. This is probably due to its function in a range of different policy areas like forestry, planning and waste management.
The Scottish Soil Framework was set up in 2009 by the Scottish Government with the ultimate aim of formalising soil protection. It identifies soil as one of the nation's greatest assets, recognising its vulnerability, with climate change the most significant threat. Land can die if the precious top soil is swept away by flood; if underwater too long it can stop being productive.
Next year is the International Year of Soils, and all the relevant Scottish agencies will be involved in getting the message out.
So here's mud in your eye if you thought soil was the dirtiest subject on earth.
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