Soil is the skin of our planet Earth. It is the skin where vegetation roots in, the skin that stores nutrients as well as water. Food production for ourselves but also for millions of other animal species is depending on the health of this small layer (average depth of 15 cm). If the soil and soil management is good, food production and farming will also be good. The health of the earth and life on earth as well as the human society are all depending on the soil. If we manage to keep the soil fertile, production increases and the local economy will also in the future be strong and safe. Many problems in the world come from modern farming practices that are not taking care of the soil.
The main five soil forming factors are the parent material (which is rock, deposits from sea, rivers and wind or volcanic ash), climate, topography (relief), organisms and time. Nowadays, human activity is often named as a sixth one.
To protect and improve the soil we need to understand its needs. The main ingredients that are present in all soils to greater or lesser amount are the following four. The right mixture (given in %) of these equals natural fertility.
- mineral particles (sand, silt clay) 45%
- air 25%
- moisture or water 25%
- organic matter 5% (visible and microscopic organisms 10%; roots and living plants 10%; humus, which is dead animals and plants that are broken down, 80%)
All these ingredients are necessary for healthy soil; of major importance are however the invisible organisms, bacteria and fungi, who break down the organic matter and produce detritus and other break down products that can be taken up by other organisms like earthworms. We can find 2 billion organisms in one tablespoon of fertile forest soil. The natural conditions are usually best for them, human activity mostly disturbs them.
We can however also provide them their needs and they will work for us for free: the right food, biomass, and the right working place, temperature, moisture, aeration and a lack of disturbance. For information on how to make compost and let micro-organisms work for you, click here.
Another post on understanding the needs of our soil is coming soon … .