“The Only Magic Material that Turns Death into Life.”
There is absolutely no doubt that soil is the greatest connector of all lives on this planet earth. It is not only the fundamental source of all living beings but also our final destination. We all are very well aware of what soil is even though as per the statistics of the current situation it won’t be long until it will probably vanish completely from the face of the earth eventually leading us all to a futuristic question of what is not soil?
Most people think soil is made of dirt but that’s not true. It doesn’t look like dirt. Dirt is made of minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium that are found in rocks and have been broken down.
So, what is soil made up of exactly?
In layman’s terms, soil = dirt + water + air + organics. It’s the living layer between the air and the rock.
However, it is an extremely complicated substance in reality. It’s composition roughly includes 45% of minerals and shattered rock (the dirt), 25% water, 25% air, and up to 5% organic stuff (decaying plant matter and living things like fungi, bacteria, worms and other insects).
It has 5 or 6 layers: organic (decomposing plant matter), topsoil (plant roots and living creatures), subsoil, parent material (base earth layer), and bedrock (the floor of the world). The activity is in the topsoil. It is the soil’s most vital layer, where plants develop and worms and other creatures feed on organic stuff. However, topsoil is erodible and may be lost when soils deteriorate eventually. Eventually leading us into a food crisis and in the worst case scenario, perhaps even extinction.
Topsoil, along with subsoil and parent material, is part of the rhizosphere, this is where plants interact with each other! How intriguing isn’t it? What makes you think you and me are the only ones capable of having conversations like these?
Soil is alive!
Soil is a biological system and even though it seems inert, yet it is alive with life. It is not a monolithic entity and a lot depends on the climate and where you are. The amount of sand, silt, and clay in soils is used to classify soils. Color, texture, and productivity of soil vary. About 70,000 variants of soil are present just in the US alone!
One Tablespoon of Soil contains more living organisms than there are people on planet earth, let that sink in. Unbelievable isn’t it? This is definitely one of the most interesting facts about soil.
That’s in terms of individual creatures, but the soil has an incredible amount of biodiversity. Soils are one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems!
Here are some fascinating facts about soil creatures from the USDA and other sources:
- 1 tsp dirt contains 100-100 billion bacteria
- 1 g soil contains 75,000 bacterium species, 25,000 fungal species, 1000 protozoa species, and several hundred nematode species.
- An acre of soil contains up to 20,000 kg of total live stuff.
- One acre of cropland has 1,400,000 earthworms.
Why is soil so essential to us?
Soil is the foundation of all life, despite its low food chain position. It provides plants with food, air, water, and a “home” for their roots. Eventually, humans and other creatures depend on plants for our own health.
Agriculture is the only “essential” business that relies on soils for 95% of food production.
It is the planet’s natural water filter. Surface water trickles down into the soil layers, removing chemicals, dust, and other impurities. So the water is clean when it reaches deep aquifers.
Natural water filtering by soil is also cost effective. The Catskill Watershed provides clean water to New York for around $1-1.5 billion via natural soil filtering processes; a water filtration facility would cost $6-8 billion, plus $300 million annually for management and maintenance. That’s a huge save!
Soil helps to mitigate climate change!
Did you know that well managed soils can sequester carbon from the atmosphere and store it?
Scientists predict that degraded and agricultural soils can recover 50-66 percent of total SOC lost. Regenerated soil is predicted to offset 5-15 percent of worldwide fossil fuel emissions annually.
Including no-till farming, cover crops, silvopasture, nutrient cycling, and other regenerative agricultural practices may take carbon from the atmosphere and into the soil. Thus, helping tremendously to mitigate climate change. These strategies also result in healthier, more productive soil, which improves farmers’ bottom lines while addressing food security challenges.
A mere 2% increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100% of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere. – Dr. Rattan Lal
What is the current situation of soil today?
Sadly, 1/3rd of today’s soils are degraded. Conventional agricultural techniques are still damaging soil ecosystems practically everywhere.
The UNFAO estimates that a third of all soils are moderately to extremely deteriorated. Chemical pollution and nutrient depletion damage soil ecosystems, causing salinization, acidity, erosion, and/or compaction, which limit soil productivity. IDS claims that soil is being washed away 10-40 times quicker than it is restored. This is really concerning and perhaps solving these soil issues must become humanity’s top priority. According to the Soil Health Institute, by 2060 we will be asking our soils to produce as much food as we have eaten in the past 500 years.
One of the most important factor here is to realize that soil can die! Biological soils, like all living systems, are in a delicate equilibrium. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are overused in traditional agriculture, disrupting soil equilibrium and creating unhealthy soil. Degraded soils are less productive, needing more fertilizer and are susceptible to erosion, destroying the fertile topsoil layer.
This occurred during the Dust Bowl in the US in the 1930s. During extreme droughts, powerful winds blasted away up to 75% of the topsoil, leaving just dry ground left. It’s very important that we should not let such events repeat.
It is crucial to understand that soil is a non-renewable resource, making it even more valuable. It is created by a geological process that gradually turns bedrock into a living matrix. The whole physical, biological, and chemical process may take tens of thousands of years. Unfortunately, erosion may remove a full centimetre of valuable topsoil in a year.
Our solution to the soil crisis!
Minimize soil disturbance no matter what. In order to preserve key ecosystems intact, be involved in keeping land unspoiled and adopt no-till agricultural methods. Cover dirt as much as you can. Rotate farmland and grow a variety of crops year-round. Plant variety enhances soil biodiversity, while cover crops keep the soil covered. Farmers can easily boost soil organic matter in three years. Regenerative farming has several advantages. With persistent work, most farmers can raise soil organic matter content in 3-10 years.
It is very important for us as a human race to come together and contribute in our own ways to spread awareness and knowledge regarding this phenomena. For the sake of our current and future generations, we must immediately participate in the ‘Save Soil’ movement. If you are reading this then we request you to make this knowledge go viral and to empower each and every person with it as not only our present day but also our future depends on it.
Let us all come together and create a world that will not have a civil war breaking out in the upcoming years. We have turned a blind eye towards nature for centuries now but today thanks to technology, we have a lot of power in somehow reversing the damage up to a certain degree if acted upon wisely. We must unite and manifest the power of our collective consciousness, let’s make it happen!
Sources: 1. Global Movement to Save Soil (consciousplanet.org) 2. 23 AMAZING Facts About Soil: The Incredible Story About the Ground Beneath Your Feet (nomomente.org) 3. Home | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (fao.org)