Last Friday, December 5, was World Soil Day. It officially marked the start of the International Year of Soil (IYS) a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Global Soil Partnership (GSP) initiative. As we posted last month, the importance of our soil cannot be understated and we are excited to celebrate and learn about building and sustaining this life-giving “skin of the earth.”
Paraphrasing FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, an FAO news release helped explain some of the problems facing soils around the world, as well as what the solution may be:
It can take up to 1,000 years to form one centimetre of soil, and with 33 percent of all global soil resources degraded and human pressures increasing, critical limits are being reached that make stewardship an urgent matter, Graziano da Silva said...
Better management can assure that those usually unnoticed organisms boost soil's ability to absorb carbon and mitigate desertification, so that even more carbon can be sequestered -- helping offset agriculture's own emissions of greenhouse gases.
World Soil Day’s kick off entailed a Tweet Chat with Ronald Vargas, Technical Officer and expert in soils for FAO's Land and Water Division. Moderated by Farming First, Vargas answered a slew of questions and Farming First did a great job of posting questions and answers from other participants along the way. Hop onto Twitter and check out #IYS2015 and #AskFF or go to @FarmingFirst for all of the details, and for more inspiration from Farming First, check out their recent post Talking Dirt – 15 Ways Soil Is Getting Healthier.
Bringing the IYS to our home turf, the Soil Science Association of America developed twelve themes (one per month) explaining the wide variety of soil benefits. January’s theme is Soil Sustains Life. The resources provided are primarily for classrooms, but they easily apply to all learners.
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) released a statement of its support and collaboration with the UNFAO and GSP. Check out their video praising the importance of soils.
While the NRCS are old pro’s at soil conservation (since 1935 the agency has helped farmers conserve and protect soil and water), the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) points out that our federal government could create stronger policies to protect the soil nationally. NSAC ran a series of blog posts surrounding World Soil Day about soil health and cover cropping. All of their posts are well worth reading and specifically Sunday’s addressed how we can integrate IYS principles into our own domestic policy as well as the uphill battle that we have to get there:
All the positives that good research and conservation assistance can create will not be fully realized, however, if our federal farm programs work in opposition to better soil health. Our current farm support structures work against crop and enterprise diversity and often even work against best conservation practices. As the most powerful signals sent by the government, these farm subsidy programs must be adjusted to support — rather than hinder — sustainable soil management. When commodity programs started in the New Deal they were aimed explicitly, in part, on creating better resource conservation farming systems. We badly need a 21st century version of that original vision, beginning with a revitalization of the conservation compliance regime and new crop insurance rules to remove barriers to advanced cover cropping and nutrient and pest management.
International Year of Soil organizers hope it will raise awareness about the importance of soil, resulting in shifts in farm subsidy programs (and others). While it is essentially the basis of our existence, there is so much more about soil that the average person doesn’t consider about the soil. To help us out, Linda Qui of National Geographic gives a her top five important facts about soil:
1. Soil, like oil, is a finite resource.
2. Misusing soil can topple civilizations.
3. Good soil usage helps prevent droughts.
4. High-tech makes a difference.
5. Soil is alive.
Qui’s explanations are succinct and well worth reading. The world of soil is vast and largely unknown. Its time that we all learn more about this precious resource and how to conserve it! Click the graphic at the top for a great soil infographic form FAO.
GRAPHIC: courtesy of UNFAO
Talking Dirt – 15 Ways Soil Is Getting Healthier via Farming First
The International Year of Soils via Soil Society of America
Strengthening Policy for Soil Health and Food Secure World via National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
The Dirt on Dirt: 5 Things You Should Know About Soil via National Geographic
Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson