It’s under our feet everyday, supporting our house, filtering our water, and getting tracked all over the kitchen floor. We take it for granted, rarely stopping to think about the vital role it plays in our lives. Do you know what it is?
I’m thinking of soil—an incredibly complex medium that truly is a backbone of human existence. Here are four good reasons we care about our soil and think you should too:
1. Soil is essential to the growth of the plants that supply us with food, clean air and building materials. It anchors the plant, supplies them with necessary nutrients, and holds the water used by the plant. When a soil has good structure, the right pH, and adequate cation-exchange capacity, the plants grown in it flourish, producing more biomass per plant. This biomass then supplies us with everything from fruits and vegetables and animal feed to lumber and oxygenated air that comes as a byproduct of photosynthesis.
2. Soil is home to literally billions of organisms, including those that decompose our wastes and fix nitrogen. Without these organisms, dead plant material and other types of refuse would only build up. Plants would also not be able to access the nitrogen they need for growth that is provided by these organisms.
3. Soil filters our groundwater and makes modern-day sewage systems possible. A healthy soil high in natural matter will absorb harmful chemicals, preventing them from leaching and contaminating our water supply. In a similar way, the filtering properties of soil are used to safely and naturally neutralize the fluids in a septic system, keeping our communities clean.
4. The health of our soils determines our future. Depleted soils will produce poor crop yields and lead to increased erosion–an environmental disaster for our drinking water supply, aquatic species, and building stability, among other things. But well-maintained soils can help ensure the food supply and environmental safety of future generations.
Although techniques like hydroponics are great ways to grow food without soil, nothing will ever replace the importance of soil in our ecosystem. Soil is more than the dirt under out feet. It is what feeds the world and is a gift we can pass on to future generations. That is why we are doing our best to make sure our soils stay healthy through management techniques like cover crops and proper tillage. Learn more about how we do that in February’s upcoming blog post!