World Soil Day – get the dirt!
December 5th is World Soil Day. A day to promote talking, thinking and taking action towards improving the health of our soils. Let’s face it – soil is not a popular topic. It’s neither glamorous nor particularly pleasing to look at. It’s just dirt, right?
But there is so much going on beneath our feet. Soil is not just a mixture of clay, rock particles and organic matter, it’s a busy network of interconnected species. More than a quarter of all the organisms that exist on earth live within the soil. Left to their own devices, flora, fauna and microbes all team together in harmonious cycles to maintain optimum soil health.
A hundred years ago farmers and growers would have worked in tune with those natural cycles to produce mineral-rich, nutritious food. Then progress intervened. Mechanisation and pharmaceutical innovations in agriculture delivered higher yields with less need for manual labour and so the “betterment” curve continued. But to what cost. Modern Intensive farming is now a commercial-centric industry. One that has wrecked havoc on the fertility of our soils. Continuous application of artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, the practice of monoculture cropping and soil compaction from heavy farm machinery all contribute to the depletion of life in our soils.
The facts are disheartening. According to UN statistics, at current rates of degradation, our topsoils could be gone within 40 – 60 years. Yes. Maybe in your lifetime? UK research suggests that there are only 100 harvests left in the soil. A bleak prospect for our future.
Clearly there is an urgent need to bring the subject of soil to the table.
As Nicolette Nahn Niman, author of ‘Defending Beef’ says “Healthy soil is the single most important foundation of a viable, sustainable food system”.
GROW Observatory is an organisation devoted to helping people understand and improve both soil and food growing practices. Citizen scientists, (hey! that’s you and me) are called on to participate in collecting data from our immediate surroundings and submitting it for scientific environmental monitoring. It is a European-wide project engaging thousands of growers, scientists and others passionate about the land.
How can you get involved? Here in Ireland we have two GROW Places, one in the South East and another in the North West. If you are within a GROW Place area, sign up here to participate and your details will be passed to your nearest community champion, who will contact you. If not, the GROW team will confirm how you can take part in the GROW Living Soils mission.
So go ahead and do your bit for World Soil Day. Make dirt a hot topic! Tune in here for World Soil Day webinars from GROW Observatory