Soil Day brought out importance of healthy soils
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 10:21 AM
Just last week, as the holidays began to loom in earnest, the focus was on our soil as we celebrated World Soil Day, Dec. 5. Declared by the United Nations around the world, World Soil Day noted the importance of healthy soil to agriculture, and to everyday life Good dirt is very important.
Think about where your delicious Thanksgiving feast and Christmas' roast beast came from, the healthy, worldwide resource, the top soil. Much has been said recently about soil conservation, and, in fact, there have been fears that politics might eliminate conservation from the next farm bill, with disastrous consequence.
In honor of World Soil Day, the Huffington Post website posted five signs of healthy soil, showing why we should all support such an idea:
1. You can't see healthy soil. One of the surest signs of healthy soil is that its hidden from plain sight, protected from the elements by natural armor. "No-till" farmers build healthy soil by planting directly into the stubble from the previous year's crop instead of plowing up the soil.
2. Healthy soil has living roots growing in it. During the spring and summer, the Midwest is blanketed with lush growing fields. The roots from the growing crops take certain components out of the soil, and exude others, adding to the dynamic soil ecosystem.
3. Healthy soil is teeming with life. There are more organisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on the planet! Each of these organisms, including earthworms, bacteria and fungi, have a special role to play in building a healthy, resilient soil community that is pest-and-disease-resistant, soaks up water like a sponge, and provides nutrients to growing crops.
4. Healthy soil produces high yielding crops, even when the weather doesn't cooperate. For each 1 percent increase in soil organic matter, soil can store an additional 20,000 gallons of water. That comes in handy for growing crops if there's a drought, and may explain why farmers who used cover crops to improve their soil weathered the historic 2012 drought better than those who did not use cover crops.
5. Healthy soil is surrounded by healthy water, ecosystems, and people. When soil thrives, so do the ecosystems, water, and people around it. Because healthy soil can soak up much water and is protected from erosion, it helps prevent polluted runoff from contaminating water.
Unfortunately, the Huffington Post wrote, "these signs of healthy soil are missing on many acres of our farmland. Only about a third of U.S. farmland is no-till, and less than 2 percent of acres in the upper Mississippi River Basin use cover crops. As a result, we've allowed much of our soil to become degraded, sick, and unproductive. Fortunately, soils can be regenerated. Programs like a "good driver" crop insurance discount for farmers who invest in regenerating their soil can help give our soils, and the farmers who care for them, the respect they deserve."
I'll see ya!