2015 International Year of Soils
Our soils are in danger because of expanding cities, deforestation, unsustainable land use and management practices, pollution, overgrazing and climate change. The current rate of soil degradation threatens the capacity to meet the needs of future generations. The promotion of sustainable soil and land management is central to ensuring a productive food system, improved rural livelihoods and a healthy environment.
Why We Depend on Soil
Heathy soils are the basis of healthy food production. A healthy soil is the foundation for vegetation which is cultivated or managed for feed, fibre, fuel or medicinal products. Soils support our planet’s biodiversity.
Soils are an important part of the carbon cycle which combats climate change. Soils store and filter water, improving resilience to floods and droughts. Most important to note is that soil is a non-renewable resource, its preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future.
Soils supply 4 important things that ensure that food producing plants are able to grow and flourish – essential nutrients, water, oxygen and root support. Soils also maintain a diverse community of organisms that help control plant disease, help recycle plant nutrients and improve soil structure. Soils act as a buffer and protect delicate plant roots from drastic temperature fluctuations.
Healthy soil contributes to mitigating climate change by maintaining or increasing its carbon content, it also, most importantly, is the foundation of all food systems and is the medium in which nearly all food producing plants grow.
Soil is a Non-Renewable Resource!
It is the basis of food, livestock feed, medicines, eco-systems and fuel. Currently 33% of global soil is moderately to highly degraded which ultimately affects food security globally.
As the population grows, so does the demand for food and this increases agricultural production which intensifies the degradation of soils.
Did you know?
So what is Sustainable Soil Management?
- Increasing soil organic matter content.
- Keeping soil surface vegetated.
- Using nutrients wisely.
- Promoting crop rotations.
- Reducing erosion.
Diverse farming approaches promote the sustainable management of soils…
Agroecology – is a systems approach based on a variety of technologies, practices and innovations, including local and traditional knowledge and modern science.
Organic farming – is agricultural production without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms, growth regulators , and livestock feed additives.
Conservation agriculture – follows three principles (minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotations) to improve soil conditions, reduce land degradation and boost yields).
Agroforestry – includes both traditional and modern land-use systems where trees are managed together with crops and/or animal production systems in agricultural settings.
Zero tillage – is a technique used in conservation agriculture to maintain a permanent or semi-permanent organic soil cover that protects the soil allowing soil microorganisms and fauna to take on the task of “tilling” and soil nutrient balancing.
What needs to change to save our soils?
Information supplied by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. For more information visit www.fao.org