What’s The Importance of Soil on Life? Why We Need To Save It!
Soil is a free resource to living organisms on earth including humans. However, Soil is a finite resource, which means that if it’s lost or degraded then it’s not recoverable within a human lifespan.
Soil is composed of five major ingredients — minerals, soil organic matter, living organisms, gas, and water.
Our planet has evolved over Billions of years & is home to about 2 Million Species of living organisms, most of the Biodiversity is in the Soil, which is home to nearly 87% of life – hence the need to save it.
I take the liberty to list few critical conclusions after research by the United Nations – Food & Agricultural Organization – (UN-FAO)1. Unsustainable agricultural practices and the overexploitation of natural resources, as well as a growing global population, are putting increased pressure on soils and causing alarming rates of soil degradation worldwide.
2. Soil-Is where Food Begins
3. It can take up to 1000 years to produce just 2-3 cm of soil.
4. 60% of the Earth's topsoil has already degraded
5. The world population is expected to cross 9.5 billion by 2045 whereas food production is expected to drop by 40% (as compared to the current which is already short of what we need to feed the world)
6. And, over 90% could become degraded by 2050
7. The equivalent of one soccer pitch of soil is eroded every five seconds. For Better understanding, an Acre of arable land is converting to desert every second.
8. Estimated rates of accelerated soil erosion on arable or intensively grazed lands are 100-1000 times higher than natural erosion rates.
9. Soil erosion can lead to up to 50% loss in crop yields.
10. The economic cost of soil degradation for the European Union is estimated to be in the order of tens of billions of euros annually.
The question that we need to ask ourselves is; what does this entail for us and the environment, and what can we do to bring the soil back into balance so that we can survive?
We may perceive soil as limitless and indestructible, but this is not the case. The soil we rely on for agriculture covers only approximately 7.5 percent of the earth's surface and is extremely unstable. An average of thirty-nine inches of topsoil supports 87 percent of all living forms on the world, including microorganisms, worms, insects, birds, animals, humans, plants, trees, and all other vegetation. And, that is in grave danger now. The reality is that an inch of fertile topsoil takes thousands of years to grow.
The UN FAO calculated that we only have enough soil for 80 to 100 harvests, about 60 years of harvests left. After then, we will be unable to grow food due to a lack of soil. You can imagine the agony that will erupt in the globe as a result of our actions. Thirty percent of India's land has already been damaged, and soil is turning to desert in 90 percent of the country's states. Thus, protecting the soil is of utmost importance.
A healthy soil is a living ecosystem that consists of a complex mixture of minerals and organic materials that contains air, water, and life. This leads to a creation of hundreds of distinct types of soil, including everything from loose sandy soils to saturated peats to the well-balanced loam that is ideal for agriculture. Human activity, on the other hand, is disrupting the equilibrium, with one-third of the world's soil already deteriorated.
How does Saving the Soil affect the Environment, thus protect life?
Soil is the foundation of a livelihood for farmers and communities all over the world: healthy soil provides good crops, which provide a good income, allowing people to thrive. But there's more to it than that. Soil filters our drinking water, grows our food, and absorbs the carbon dioxide that causes climate change. After the ocean, soil is the greatest carbon sink, storing more carbon than all terrestrial plant life on the globe.
Any one of these critical soil functions would be sufficient justification to protect our soil; however, when taken together, they form a compelling case for immediate action.
Soil Revitalization Techniques
Many of the ways to reduce and even reverse the damage are reliant on changes to current agricultural practices. Here are some methods of how can we save our soils;
1. Feeding The Soil & Building Soil Quality
People in India have been cultivating the same land for thousands of years. However, India's agricultural fields have been desertified in the last generation. The Green Revolution parts of the country are particularly vulnerable to the problem. Organic material must be added to the soil if it is to be preserved.
Organic matter is essential for soil quality and healthy plants, which in turn lead to healthy animals and people. Organic matter and soil microorganisms are the foundations of soil management. There are many possible sources of fresh organic matter that can be added to soil for the creation of SOM (Soil Organic Matter);
1. Plants and Weeds: When alive or recently deceased, plants and weeds produce sugars, as well as roots and plant components that remain in the soil and decompose into organic matter when dead.
2. Mulch Materials such as leaves, straw, hay, bark, and wood shavings conserve water while reducing weed growth and eventually decompose into organic matter.
3. Cover Crops, often known as green manure, are crops produced expressly to feed soil organisms and, as a result, soil organic matter.
4. Animal Bedding and Manure: For thousands of years, animal bedding (straw, wood shavings) and manure have been a significant source of organic matter applied to the soil.
5. Compost: Organic matter that has already been partially decomposed or stabilised is compost.
When we farmed crops in the past, we just harvested the crop and the remainder of the plant and animal waste was always returned to the land. That wisdom appears to have been lost. Thus, it is important that we make a conscious effort to improve organic matter in soil.
2. Tree-Based Agriculture or Agroforestry
Since its inception as a scientifically acknowledged study and practice, agroforestry's ability to improve soil quality has been universally recognized as a major benefit. Agroforestry trees, especially leguminous trees, enhance the soil by biological nitrogen fixation, organic matter addition, and nutrient recycling.
Also planned introduction of promoting patches of dense native tree species plantations with canopy management to create multiple micro ecologies intertwined with agriculture will ensure a reduction in local temperature, reduction in water evaporation, water retention, avoid soil erosion, and many other benefits.
3. Plant Based Meat Can Help Heal Our Soil
I would recommend that we increase the vegetarian options, but the reality is that Meat is a vital component of culture and identity. It's an important part of many cultures around the world. However, as the global middle class grows, countries are becoming increasingly meat-obsessed. Nowhere is this more evident than in developed countries, where the demand for pork, processed chicken etc. has reached a saturation point. Eating less meat is crucial for a healthy lifestyle and a healthy planet and healthy soil.
The most important greenhouse gases from animal agriculture are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane, mainly produced by enteric fermentation and manure storage, is a gas that has an effect on global warming 28 times higher than carbon dioxide. Live stock contributes about 40% of total methane emitted worldwide.
About 64% of the total ammonia emissions are attributed to Livestock. Ammonia is a leading cause for acidification of ecosystems & acids rains.
Interesting Fact, that If you cut your meat consumption in half, you'll free up 20 million square kilometres of land on the earth for tree-based agriculture, hence improving organic matter in the soil.
4. Eat What Is Available – Raw Fruits and Vegetables – Healthy You Healthy Planet
We should be conscious of the food we consume. Your health will be readily managed if the food you eat contains more than 75% water. The water content of a raw vegetable is often greater than 70%. A fruit's water content is usually greater than 90%. So that is the most effective diet. At least 30-40% of our diet should come from trees, not from a four-month crop cycle. That means we should all eat a bit more fruit.
This further paves the way for tree-based agriculture and thus in turn increasing the Organic Matter.
In order to save the soil, SOM has a significant impact on soil quality and plant health. SOM aids in the provision of nutrients, aids in the absorption and retention of moisture in the soil, aids in the prevention of soil erosion, and simply makes gardening easier. Organic matter is a beneficial and worthwhile investment for any gardening endeavour with immediate results.
In Conclusion, Save the Soil, Save the Environment
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