Soil degradation is a serious problem that is affecting the land in almost every country around the world. The loss of soil has become so endemic that it is considered to be one of the primary challenges to human life in the 21st century and beyond. Soil erosion, deforestation, drought, and industrial development are just some of the factors driving soil degradation. Because of this, there is a growing need for measures that can reverse this trend and help preserve the soil.
What Is Soil?
Soil is often referred to as the ‘living ecosystem’ that is found in the ground and beneath our feet. It is a biologically active substance that provides nutrients for plants and is also important for plant and animal life. The word ‘soil’ comes from the latin word 'solum' which means earth or ground. The majority of soils are composed of minerals and organic matter such as dead plant material, decaying bacteria and fungi, and living plants and animals, such as worms. Soil can be further classified into six groups, the most common being sand, loam, and clay.
Why Is Soil Important?
Soil is the foundation of all human life. It is the source of all plant life, which feeds the animals that we consume and provides us with various other essential products. Soil is also the main source of nutrients that are essential to our health and wellbeing. Soil is also a major absorber of rainwater and therefore crucial to water conservation and management. It is estimated that the soil surface of the earth retains approximately 70% of the world’s fresh water. This is due to the fact that soil is a porous substance that catches and holds rainwater. Furthermore, soil helps to regulate water flow by absorbing excess water when it is raining, which prevents flooding and runoff, and releasing water slowly into the water table when it is dry, which prevents droughts.
How We Are Destroying This Precious Resource
In recent decades, we have seen a dramatic decline in the quality of soil around the world. The depletion of soil has been caused by a variety of factors, such as over-farming, over-grazing, deforestation, and industrial development. Over-farming occurs when the soil is cultivated for extended periods of time without rest. The soil becomes depleted of nutrients and organic matter as it is repeatedly cultivated. This can result in a decline in soil quality and productivity, making it less able to produce nutritious crops. Over-grazing occurs when animals graze on pasturelands that have been cultivated. This causes the soil to become compacted and reduces the amount of air in the soil, which is necessary for the growth of plants. Deforestation is the process of cutting down forests to make way for other land uses like farming. Forests are incredibly important for soil health because they retain and store rainwater and prevent soil erosion. Industrial development has also contributed to soil degradation. Industries such as mining and oil and gas operations can disrupt the normal flow of water through the soil and cause damage. Mining operations can cause soil erosion, while oil and gas wells can leave the soil open to infiltration by water.
3 Steps to Save Soil and Reverse Soil Degradation
Because it will take years, if not centuries, to restore soil that has already been degraded, there is an urgent need to implement practices that will help reverse soil degradation and save as much soil as possible. Restoring degraded land is no easy task, but there are some ways we can save soil and protect the earth’s remaining fertile land. These include: - Implement sustainable farming practices: Sustainable farming practices include crop rotation and crop diversification, which are practices that avoid soil depletion by rotating crops and growing different types of crops in the same area. Aquatic farming, growing crops in water-based systems, which avoid soil compaction and soil erosion, can also be used in sustainable farming practices. - Avoid deforestation: Industrial development, including the construction of roads, dams, and bridges, as well as logging for fuel can contribute to deforestation and soil erosion, so it is important to avoid deforestation where possible. - Reduce food waste: Food waste can be a major contributor to soil degradation, depending on the type of waste that it is. For example, cow manure, which is used in some types of farming, can be a source of soil degradation if it is not disposed of properly.
Soil degradation is a serious problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. We can start by implementing sustainable farming practices, avoiding deforestation, and reducing food waste to save as much soil as possible. These efforts will help protect the land that we depend on and ensure that future generations will have access to healthy soil.
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