Soil Health

 

SOIL FACTS – AND WHY SOIL IS IMPORTANT

Soil is the network of interacting living organisms within the earth’s surface layer which support life above ground.

The nutritional value of the food we eat is directly related to the health of the soil in which it grows (or what it eats grows).

Management of agricultural soils should consider the structural, biological and mineral health of the soil (not just N, P, K) to produce nutritionally-dense food.

Soil has varying amounts of organic matter (living and dead organisms), minerals, and nutrients.

An average soil sample is 45% minerals, 25%, 25% air, and 5% organic matter (less in degraded soils).

Carbon is a master variable within the soil that controls many processes, such as development of soil structure, water storage and nutrient cycling.

Soil high in organic carbon content enables better rainfall infiltration & retention – providing greater resilience to drought.

Every gram of soil organic carbon can hold up to 8 grams of water.

Soils are vulnerable to carbon loss through degradation, but regenerative land management practices can build soil and restore soil health.

Soil erosion within conventional agricultural practices can occur at rates up to 100 times greater than the rate of natural soil formation.

Natural processes can take more than 500 years to form 2 centimeters of topsoil.

Soil carbon takes three distinct forms: living carbon, labile carbon and fixed carbon.

– Living carbon takes the form of microbes, fungi, plant roots, nematodes, earth worms etc.

– Labile carbon in the soil comprises decomposing (dead) plant and animal material that is in a state of transition.

– Fixed carbon in the soil consists of stable compounds as humates and glomalins.

…Sequestered Carbon comprises the fixed carbon plus the total living biomass.

Soil stores 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Around 95% of our food is directly or indirectly produced on our soils.

Soil microbes have a symbiotic relationship with plants – plants provide sugars to microbes and microbes make nutrients bio-available for plants.

Living organisms in soil ultimately control water infiltration, mineral density and nutrient cycling.

Fungi and bacteria help break down organic matter in the soil and earthworms digest organic matter, recycle nutrients, and make the surface soil richer.

In a handful of fertile soil, there are more individual organisms than the total number of human beings that have ever existed.

Soil is one of the most complex biological materials on our planet.

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Image Courtesy – Google

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Healthwise & Moneywise – Go for Organic Produce

Organic Soil

                Allowing Soil to Replenish itself

India, an agricultural economy since times immemorial has had farmers undertaking organic farming from ancient times. It is not really a new-fangled approach as is being made out to be. What it really involves is cultivating crops in a way that does not harm the soil. The use of natural manure is advocated to keep the soil alive and allow it to replenish itself for subsequent use.

It was in the wake of the Green Revolution in agriculture that the advent of modern pesticides for inorganic farming became the norm. Chemical insecticides are used primarily because they ensure healthy crops every time as also sustained produce. Realizing the feat of pesticides, agronomy the world over has come to rely heavily on them, that subsequently launched the mushrooming pesticide industry.

What was taken up with such grand intentions has in a space of half a century, backfired on us, woefully. Inorganic fertilizers or synthetic fertilizers are a big time manufacturing plus as they do not decompose before usage and are readily absorbed by plants. These compounds are not entirely composed of the nutrients needed by the plants though. They also contain salts and other elements that are not absorbed by plants. They are in fact left behind in the soil that builds up in time to create hazards.

When overtime such compounds are found in large amounts in the soil they can alter the chemistry of the soil. The soil actually becomes less ideal for cultivation. Although methods like neutralizing the soil and so on are undertaken to allow soil to revert back to its original state, but that does not really happen.  In fact, actually toxic compounds leech into the ground, seeping into groundwater. That’s double the jeopardy!

On the contrary organic manure made of wastes like crop remnants, farm, animal and aquatic wastes or other biological materials are better off for cultivation. They allow beneficial microbes called bio-fertilizers to be released as nutrients into the crops that benefit much more. Aside from being eco- friendly they help in restoring a pollution free environment.

This is why organic farming is encouraged so as to avoid or minimize use of synthetic pesticides. The promotion of crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste and biological nutrients is considered effective for the long run for cultivation. Organic farming offers unique soil management to enhance agro-ecosystem health. This is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological manure.

The increase in population should be all the more reason to stabilize agricultural production in a sustained way. While earlier food production was accelerated to feed an escalating population through the Green Revolution, we now need to go back to using organic inputs since to sustain the very soil that should be conserved for future generations.

With sizeable thrusts given to organic farming, we are witnessing positive outcomes. Organic produce now commands premium pricing and more farmers are getting into it to cater to a growing demand to accrue benefits. It really is a win-win situation for both producer and consumer. As ill effects of inorganic farm produce becoming clearer organic produce is being sought, creating its own niche market.

Organic Produce at a Premium

                  Organic Produce at a Premium