The health of our soil, the health of humans and the health of the planet are all intricately connected. Do you know how critical soil is to our very existence on earth?
I want to start by defining the difference between dirt and soil.
Definition of dirt: a filthy substance (such as mud, dust, or grime) that generally does not contain any minerals, nutrients or live ecosystems.
Definition of soil: the upper layer of earth in which plants grow, a black or dark brown material typically consisting of a mixture of organic remains, clay, and rock particles. Contains live ecosystems of microscopic organisms.
Basically soil is living. Dirt is dead.
When soil starts to disappear, ecosystems will follow suit. If we do not protect the health and biodiversity of soil we will not be able to grow food. Soil is key for food security as crops cannot grow on dead ground. Healthy soil is key for life on earth. The long term benefits of managing soil health (did you know soil has a microbiome) is similar to managing your own microbiome health.
Soil creates food, fiber and water for life above ground and also brings carbon out of the atmosphere and detoxifies pollutants. Soil helps to regulate the Earth's climate and stores more carbon than all of the world's forests combined.
Healthy soil absorbs water and co2 via photosynthesis. Soil brings the co2 down into a living plant and back into the soil where it belongs - this is called biosequestration. This is why cover crops are so important. Cover crops are crop planted to support soil health, rather than for being harvested.
Unhealthy soil releases water and co2 – this is called desertification (land that is turning to desert). Desertification is related to climate change. It is also tied to the refugee crisis. People are pushed off their land due to desertification since they cannot grow food and is a contributor to the refugee crisis and mass immigration across borders
According to a study published recently in Earth's Future. Since farmers began tilling the land in the Midwest 160 years ago, 57.6 billion metric tons of topsoil have eroded.
A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left. Top soil is the uppermost layer of soil (usually 2-10 inches deep) that contains all the nutrients and microorganisms. The world needs top soil to grow its food. It is clear our current farming practices are not sustainable.
What damages soil? pollution, conventional farming practices (tilling the land and using pesticides such as glyphosate) and deforestation.
Biodiversity is the way forward.
The principle of regenerative agriculture is key. The use of different pesticides, herbicides and fungicides on our crops damages nature and our health. Regeneration has many definitions, the way I like to define regenerative farming and agriculture practices is a holistic approach to growing food that works WITH nature, not against it.
How can we support healthy soil & crops?
REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE – reduce tilling of the land, using cover crops, rotating crops, using compost, and letting livestock graze freely (healthy cows release microbes in their poop that support the soil microbiome)
So, What can we do now?
A garden is a great place to start to support your health and contribute to regenerative agriculture. If you have the space I invite you to plant some veggies in your yard. If you do not, that is OK! Even if you live in an apartment you can still grow your own food!
Ask yourself - who grows your food? How was it grown? How long has it been in transit? How long has it been in the refrigerator?
Grow vegetables in 5 pound buckets! Gardening with Goo is a great resource. You can also have little pots of herbs on your windowsill.
Eat seasonal produce
Start composting! This is food for the soil and supports the environment
You can also share this episode with a friend – education is power.
Your homework: plant a tree, start an herb garden, plant some veggies in a 5 pound bucket, and, as always, go play in the dirt