A healthy living soil sustains biodiversity, protects and nourishes crops and contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation. But soil is under threat today. We lose an estimated 24 billion tons of fertile soil each year due to erosion, while many of the soil functions that are delivered for free to provide productive, fertile and nutritious food systems are destroyed because we systematically sterilize our soils with agro-chemicals, only for farmers to then pay to replace those lost functions.
Without protecting the soil, bringing it back to life and building topsoil, it will be impossible to feed people, to transition to a toxic-free future, to halt the loss of biodiversity and adapt to the challenges of climate change and extreme weather events.
‘It is an extremely important time. 42% of land that is cultivated today is degraded land; this is the result of different factors, depending on the region.
- First in many countries land is overused, particularly where land is becoming too small to support the livelihoods of the people, and is divided up generation after generation. Farmers have too little soil to cultivate and they overuse the land in some regions.
- Second, damaging agricultural practices degrade the soil: spread of monocultures that remove trees from farming.
- Third, significant erosion of the soil. 50% of the planet’s top soil has been removed in the past 50 years. In addition to erosion, there is also compaction of soils, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and an increase in soil salinity, which should further increase with higher sea levels.
The consequences of soil degradation are the following:
- Loss of land productivity is a problem for farmers who depend on the land, in particular in developing countries where I have worked.
- Environmental consequences: degraded lands are less well-equipped to retain water which can worsen flooding; soil erosion leads to sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these water ways and causing decline in fish stocks and other species.
- The third and most important consequence: the organic matter in the soil holds carbon. The soil digests the plant, which through photosynthesis, has been absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The more the soil is rich in organic matter, the more it can function as a carbon sink. Conversely, as soils lose organic matter, they release carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, worsening climate change.
Soils are extremely important for the future of mankind:
- 99,7% of our food comes directly from the soil.
- Soils store more carbon than the atmosphere and all plant life combined.
- Healthy soils can store large amounts of fresh water and protect us from erosion, flooding and droughts.
Regenerative farming = the Soilution
Sustainable farming practices, efficient use of water and conservation agriculture as a way to turn the tide.
Productivity and resilience depend strongly on the quality of the soil. The organic farmer considers soil a living organism. By using crop rotation and compost, organic farmers feed the soil and the soil in turn feeds the plants. Healthy soils means healthy food.
Legumes improve soil quality and planting them are a sustainable solution for both, crop rotation and food consumption.
Regenerative agriculture ensures:
- Long-term fertility & productivity
- Enhanced water holding capacity, less erosion, better drought & flood resistance
- Improved carbon sequestration
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To learn more go to Save Our Soil | Soil Association