Soil nutrient loss is a major soil degradation processes threatening nutrition and is recognized as being among the most important problems at a global level for food security and sustainability all around the globe. World Soil Day 2022 (#WorldSoilDay) and its campaign “Soils: Where food begins” aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.
The efficiency of agriculture and cattle breeding depends on the soil, so some regions of the Earth are more fertile than others. Unfortunately, improper use of the soil often leads to the desertification of vast territories that turn into barren wastelands.
Even soil can be hiding interesting facts, here these are;
Any soil is a whole ecosystem full of life from bacteria and other microorganisms to worms and various small animals.
The least fertile type of soil is desert. It is extremely poor in organic matter and useful substances, so practically nothing grows on it.
Studies of the soil on Mars have shown that it is quite suitable for growing terrestrial plants.
The soil envelope of the Earth, which includes the soils themselves and underwater silts, is called the pedosphere.
Too active use of the soil leads to its depletion and subsequent transformation into a desert. In China, for example, about 385 square miles (about 1000 km2) of once fertile land turns into deserts every year. However, now the Chinese authorities are actively fighting this process.
The least fertile countries in the world are located in Africa. Namibia, for example, most of which is occupied by the ancient Namib desert.
North America is the most fortunate of all the continents because the area of fertile soil here is the highest. There are also a lot of fertile territories in Europe, but Asia, South America, Africa, and Australia are less lucky.
25-50 thousand square miles (6-12 million hectares) of soil lose their fertility and suitability for agriculture annually. New territories are being developed, but slowly, about 12.5-25 million square miles (3-6 million hectares) per year.
The soil is important for another reason: it absorbs carbon, the excessive concentration of which in the atmosphere would be disastrous. Only the waters of the World Ocean absorb more carbon than the soils.
It is possible to restore depleted or initially infertile soil by saturating it with organic matter, but in nature, these processes take thousands of years. Plus, the dirt loses its fertility much faster.
Soil is a complex blend of organic matter, minerals, water, air, and microorganisms.
Many of today’s antibiotics have been derived from soil – eg. penicillin.
Soil is made up – clay, sand and loam. They are grouped according to the amounts of coarse sand and fine clay particles and organic matter they contain.
A teaspoon of healthy soil can contain up to a billion bacteria.
In 1g of soil, there can be hundreds of metres of fungal hyphae (strands of fungal growth).
A healthy population of soil microbes can help reduce pathogens that cause plant diseases.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide can be stored (‘sequestered’) in soil.
Productive soil can contain up to 7 million earthworms per hectare.
Soil rich in organic matter can store up to 30% of its weight in water.
Soil contains 25% of our planet’s biodiversity.
It is thought that early exposure to microorganisms, including soil microorganisms, could help reduce disease incidence later in life.
Soil is able to filter and trap environmental pollutants, helping to prevent them from leaching into the groundwater.
Soil contains microorganisms that may promote happiness in humans.
What is sand? Sand is coarse, loose particles of rocks and minerals. Sandy soil drains freely and doesn’t hold nutrients well. Sandy soil can be improved by adding organic matter.
What is loam? Loam soil is a wonderful mixture of clay and sand particles plus organic matter.
What is clay? Clay is very small mineral particles of weathered rocks and clay soil can retain lots of moisture and nutrients. Clay soil can be improved by adding organic matter.
Soil is home to a quarter of the earth’s organisms!
Soil microorganisms are very important – they break down organic matter into nutrients that plants can use.
Organic matter in the soil can store water like a sponge.
What is soil pH? It’s a measure of soil acidity or alkalinity. Most plants like growing in soil that’s close to pH ‘neutral’ or just slightly acidic (pH 6.5-7).
There are special soil bacteria that live on the roots of legumes, like peas and beans, that convert nitrogen in the air into nitrogen that plants can use.
Plant roots need access to oxygen. Burrowing earthworms help aerate the soil, allowing more air (and oxygen) to plant roots.
It’s vital that we care for our soils. Around 95% of the world’s food is produced on soil!