A critique of the language of ‘constraints’ and its consequences for soil management

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


We improve the things we do- our practice- through reflecting. Reflecting is assisted by considering the how we frame the situations in which we practice, reflected in how we use and privilege certain words and phrases. In this chapter I consider the framing of soil science and management through ‘soil constraints’. The use of ‘soil constraints’ in scientific documents has been steadily rising since the 1960s. Thinking about the features of soil that constrain a human goal is legitimate and useful, but like any choice it is not without consequences. I discuss three potential consequences of the constraints frame, including reduced options for on-farm adaptation, creation of additional soil-related issues and reduced social ‘goodwill’ towards soil. I conclude by highlighting some currently used additional ways to frame soil management. Despite my focus on potential consequences I do not suggest that we abandon constraints as a useful idea; rather, I present this discussion to demonstrate how considering how we frame issues supports deep and effective reflection on practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSoil constraints and productivity
EditorsNanthi Bolan, MB Kirkham
Place of PublicationBoca Raton USA
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781003093565
ISBN (Print)9780367554392
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2023


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