Every Day Should be World Soil Day

By Dr. Kris Nichols.

World Soil Day is held annually to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and to advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources. This year, the campaign’s focus is to Stop Soil Erosion, Save Our Future.

Will preventing soil erosion really save our future?

Well, it is currently estimated that every 5 seconds, the equivalent of one soccer field of soil erodes.  On World Soil Day three years ago, a senior representative for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization stated that if we continue to degrade the soil at its current rate, the world could run out of topsoil in approximately 60 years. This threatens global food supplies and food safety, and thus, our future.

Why is soil so important?

Soil is the source of clean air and clean water by acting as the filtration system for contaminants as well as the source of nutrients for plants to feed animals and humans. To drive soil health, soil organisms (fungi, bacteria, microarthropods, algae, insects, etc.) work in complex sets of synergistic relationships to address nutrient, water, and pest and disease issues and support abundant plant growth and health.

A ‘healthy soil’ contains a diverse community ‘teeming with microbes’ that enhances soil physical, chemical and biological parameters. An ‘unhealthy soil’ needs to be augmented by nutrient and water inputs as well as the use of pesticides to manage pests and diseases. Unhealthy soil also is susceptible to erosion due to a decline in soil structure from a loss of water-stable soil aggregates. Soil aggregates are formed and stabilized by biological and chemical processes making the fine materials (i.e. sand, silt and clay minerals and organic matter) resistant to the erosive forces of wind and water.

Principles and practices utilized in regenerative organic agriculture provide options and opportunities for farmers and ranchers to optimize soil biology and accelerate the formation of healthy soil. 

There are six principles to soil health: 

  1. Keep a plant growing as many days out of the year as possible; 
  2. Increase crop diversity with cover crops, companion crops, and rotating multiple crops; 
  3. Reduce or eliminate the use of synthetic chemicals; 
  4. Protect the soil surface with crop residue, mulch, compost, etc.; 
  5. Reduce or eliminate soil disturbance particularly with tillage; and 
  6. Integrate livestock such as cattle, sheep, poultry, and/or insects.

Finding hope to stop erosion and save our future

Regenerative organic agriculture principles and practices give us hope for healthier soil to address economic and food insecurities. At Canadian Organic Growers, we provide education, advocacy and leadership to build regenerative and resilient food and farming systems that empower farmers and consumers. As proud members of Farmers for Climate Solutions, we want to make agriculture part of the solution to climate change.

We know that there isn’t one silver-bullet solution to heal the soil. Nor is there a one-size-fits-all solution to food safety. Fortunately, however, there are many regenerative organic practices available to farmers and ranchers to Stop Soil Erosion and Save our Future — one crop, one field, and one farm at a time.

Interested in soil? Check out these other links.