Along with water, soil is the foundation of all life. From food production, to forest establishment, to community development, soils are one of the fundamental bases for human and animal life. But this incredible essential doesn’t come easy. What’s under our feet has potentially taken thousands of years to become what we see today, and is considered a finite resource.
A widespread lack of awareness has proliferated harmful practices in our soil, and some of these bad decisions can’t be reversed fast enough. I’ll explain why soil is becoming increasingly precious, the harms of soil degradation and the unsustainable practices that cause it, why healthier soil is also more sustainable, the right sustainable practices to adopt for your soil, and why it’s important that we all advocate for soil health. Finally, we’ll end with the secret to putting these practices into action to the point of perfection: cutting-edge technology.
There’s Only So Much Soil Out There!
Despite the fact that soil seems easy to buy at a store for now, it’s actually a highly finite resource that relies on the right conditions to stay alive. Wondering what it means for soil to be alive? It’s actually nutrient-rich because of living microbial communities that benefit soil fertility. Up to 10,000 species of these microorganisms can live in a single gram of soil, and they require certain practices to stay healthy.
So what is soil exactly, and how did it get that way? Soil is a natural resource made up of materials such as sand, silt, clay, gravel, rocks, air, water, and those microorganisms. How much of each of these materials is in your soil determines how your soil functions. But the process of forming your soil actually likely took thousands of years and was weathered over that time by elements such as bodies of water, glaciers, wind, and sun.
Soils function as the foundation for human and animal food production by creating a habitat for vegetation to grow. But it goes further than food. Even human habitats rely on soil since it allows essential resources such as wood to grow. Soils are extremely important and play a key role in our planet and daily lives. A world without this resource would be simply catastrophic.
Soil Degradation 101: What It Is & Why It’s Harmful
Soil degradation is the reduced capacity of soil to function beneficially for plants, animals, and humans. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 33% of our planet’s soils are facing moderate to severe degradation.
Let’s think about that for a second: even though the human population is increasing exponentially every day, our soils are degrading at an alarmingly rapid rate. What we’re currently seeing threatens our capacity to feed and otherwise support future generations.
So what’s causing all this soil degradation? These unfortunate circumstances are the result of unsustainable soil management practices.
Unsustainable Soil Management Practices to Avoid
If we remember that the soil we’re tending to is actually thousands of years old, we might not engage in some of these unsustainable soil management practices. But unfortunately, each method of soil degradation is fairly common among growers.
So what’s sure to degrade your soil? First of all, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has the potential to kill all the beneficial microorganisms that live in your soil, make your soil alive, and help grow healthy plants.
Another way to ensure soil degradation is to seal the soil by paving or other means, introduce your soil to erosion by exposing it to the elements, and practice monoculture by planting the same crop in the same soil every year.
By degrading the soil, these practices actually decrease the soil’s ability to render healthy plants and crops. The more the degradation, the lower the soil’s yield. So with these harmful practices, nobody’s winning.
All About Healthier, More Sustainable Soil
We’ve established that healthy soil is essential for food security. But building healthy soil is also crucial for increasing resilience to climate change.
Soils regulate climate through a process called carbon sequestration, during which carbon dioxide is pulled into the soil from the greater atmosphere. In fact, it’s believed that the amount of carbon currently in the earth’s soil is three times larger than the carbon in the atmosphere! By reducing carbon footprints and conserving water, soils serve as climate change mitigators.
That means that maintaining healthy soil won’t just keep the world fed. It’ll also ensure that the planet we live on stays inhabitable.
Sustainable Soil Management Practices
Ready to do your part to keep your soil sustainable? Your reward will be healthy, vibrant, and abundant plants and a cleaner atmosphere around your home.
Here’s where to start: treating your soil with organic matter, covering plants and reducing tillage, and, if you’re farming, planting a diverse group of crops and other vegetation for increased biodiversity.
- Use Organic Fertilizers and Pesticides
Unlike chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers are safe for your soil. That’s because they’re derived directly from nature—specifically plant or animal sources, such as manure, bone meal, compost, fish emulsion, mulch, and molasses. Organic pesticides are also sourced in nature and are safe for the beneficial microorganisms that live in the soil.
- Cover Plants and Reduce Tillage
If you live somewhere where erosion is a problem due to high winds or other conditions, it’s recommended that you cover your plants from the elements. This helps protect the soil from unfavorable conditions while enhancing its physical, chemical, and biological characteristics.
But soil isn’t just disturbed by erosion. It’s also affected by something called tillage, which is any process of digging, stirring, and overturning the soil. This process can be detrimental for highly-beneficial fungi groups that live in healthy soil. Not tilling your soil also allows the soil to build up more organic matter, which makes it more effective at growing plants and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
- The Benefits of Bio-Diversity
Monoculture, or the practice of planting the same crops in the same soil, erodes the soil by decreasing biodiversity and making it more susceptible to pests and disease. The more diverse your garden is above the surface, the more diverse it is below the surface. For more sustainable and healthy soil, plant a diverse range of vegetation wherever possible.
Serious About Sustainability? Engage and Invest!
While there are many benefits to making your own soil sustainable, the importance of protecting the earth’s soil goes beyond your backyard. Investing in sustainable soil management helps improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities, and supports equitable and resilient food production everywhere. Governments, farmers, homeowners, and businesses must work together to promote sustainable soil management practices. Food security for future generations depends on it.
How OtO Lawn Promotes Sustainable Soil Practices
OtO Lawn is committed as part of its mission to sustainable soil management, as well as water conversion. Those practices are made perfect by the OtO device, which uses smart technology to regulate moisture and improve the health of soil over time.
How does this device achieve this? By using organic fertilizer and other natural products to build the structure of your soil. Plus, this intelligent device applies fertilizer, water, and other treatments in response to environmental data, such as weather and vegetation type.
Whether or not you let this genius device do the work for you, it’s always best to adhere to sustainable practices for a positive effect on your soil—and, ultimately, the world we live in.