Protect the soils that feed us!

Photo credit: The Ecologist

Soil is where our food comes from – so why don’t we look after it as well as organic farmers? Photo: Soil Association.


It’s time to celebrate and protect the soils that feed us!

by Peter Melchett

Almost all our food is grown in soil, writes Peter Melchett. Yet we are treating it like dirt: spraying it with toxic chemicals, depleting vital nutrients, and releasing its carbon to add to climate change. With World Soils Day coming up tomorrow, let’s change our ways – and renew our commitment to organic food and farming.

“The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.” Those are the words of Lady Eve Balfour, co-founder of the Soil Association and also its first president.

Written nearly 70 years ago, they still stand true in 2015, which also happens to be the International Year of Soils.

With good reason: soil is one of our most important natural resources. Soil takes up to 1,000 years to form just one centimeter. Yet we’re destroying it at a rapid pace: 10 million hectares of cropland are abandoned every year as a result of soil erosion and poor soil management.

Intensive farming practices are partly to blame. While it is true these practices increase yields, more rarely discussed is the fact that they do so at the expense of the yields and food quality of future generations.

After decades of ill-treatment, intensively farmed soils simply become exhausted of nutrients – an effect already observed in some UK arable soils. With 95-99% of our food coming from the soil, this has huge implications for a growing world population.

Soil is as important as air and water to life on earth

We need to take care of our soils for our nutrition and food security, not to mention the planet’s wildlife. The way we treat our soils is directly related to our ability to tackle the most important threats facing humanity – not just food security, but also climate change and environmental crises like flooding and drought.

Read the full article: The Ecologist


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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