The FAO is absolutely right with their tag line "healthy soils for a healthy life" for their designated theme for 2015 the International Year of Soils. Yet our soil is in crisis!
A third of all soils are degraded, due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification, pollution and other processes caused by unsustainable land management practices.
At least a quarter of the world's biodiversity lives underground.
We most associate soil with production of vegetables and fruit. It's also key in livestock production too - whether the animals graze grass directly or as hay or eat grains like soya, oats and a whole host of other winter feeds.
When it comes to being healthy it's true that you are what you eat. Keeping our soils healthy is an important first step to creating healthy food. It's time to switch to more sustainable agricultural systems. By which we mean organic and small farmer lead systems that manage our land in resilient biodiverse ways. Farms that don't rely on industrial chemical inputs.
Sustainable farming land management includes trees as water management and mycorrhizal fungi nutrient highways. Trees help slow down water and wind and therefore decrease soil errosion. Their roots, specifically the attached mycorrhizal fungi help keep and move key plant nutrients from one part of the land to another - particularly important where annual crops are being grown.
It's time to stop taking soil for granted and pay more attention to the "dirt" beneath our feet.
Find out more about the international campaign at www.fao.org/soils-2015/en/.
What can I do about the soil crisis?
You may be wondering what you, as a "consumer", could possibly do to help the world-wide soil problem. The answers are all really simple and yes you've guessed it we've put some of them into quest form.
- Organic Stuffed - This quest is about buying (or growing) organic produce where ever you can.
- Bins Busted - Compost as much of your food waste as possible
- Zero Waste Challenge - This is like the Bins Busted quest but more intense.
- Growing Steady - Understand more about soils by growing plants,
- Bee Friendly Gardener (level 3) - Level 3 of this quest is all about stopping using pesticides. Pesticides although often associated with large insects like bees can also harm soil microorganisms and worms which naturally limit pest populations and maintain soil health.
- Ecocide Mad World - It could be said that knowingly killing our soils is a form of ecocide. If this is a new word for you check out this quest to find out more.
- Good Wood - A quest to do with trees, specifically about purchasing wood from sustainable places. Like we said trees are important for soil health. When they are chopped down without replacement, soils errode, hillsides collapse and disaster ensues.
- Save the Orangutan - Save the Orangutan and save the soil? Yes! The two causes are interlinked. The Orangutan's natural habitat, rainforests, are being cleared and drained then replaced by palm oils plantations. All this drastic land use change will inevitably destroy the soil's micro organisms and structural integrity.
- Treed a Lot - This quest is about planting trees. It's a great thing to do.
There. That's quite a lot to be getting on with!