International Year of Soils 2015: Why soil is so important for us?


The United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared the year of 2015 as the International Year of Soils. The specific FAO objectives for the Year of the Soils are to: Raise the awareness among society and policy makers about the importance of soil for human life; Promote effective policies and actions for sustainable management and protection of soil resources; Promote investment in sustainable soil management; and Encourage soil health information and monitoring at all levels of government.

Why soil is so important for us? Soil is the mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and the myriad of organisms that together support plant life. It is a natural body that exists as part of the outermost layer of the Earth and which performs four important functions: It is a medium for plant growth; It is a means of water storage, supply and purification; It is a modifier of the atmosphere of Earth; and It is a habitat for organisms that take part in decomposition of organic matter and the creation of a habitat for new organisms.

Soil is a finite resource, so if they are gone it will not be renewable like oil. Actually we still continue to harvest more nutrients than we replace in soil. Can you imagine that hard and infertile soil can not support the growth of the plants for our food, agriculture and gardening? Commercial hydroponic systems use soilless medium made by rockwool or coco coir in the greenhouse and their productivity has risen dramatically in the past few years. For example, commercial hydroponic tomato growers are now picking as much as 50 pounds per plant per year and the length of the tomato plant can reach up to 12m in the greenhouse. Typically, soilless hydroponic systems have high labor and high energy costs because they incorporate lighting, pumping, heat and air moderation systems. This moment, between 20,000 and 25,000 hectares of land are currently under hydroponic development globally, supplying 6 to 8 billion dollars’ worth of produce but it will not be enough to feed 7 billion people in which approximately 1 billion people suffer from hunger, and 1.2 billion live in areas with water scarcity. Good soil usage helps prevent droughts and soil can not be replaced by artificial soilless technologies.

Soil is alive. Most farmer use chemical fertilizers N:P:K to replace the loss of the nutrients in soil, that is not enough to replace the complex system of soil. It needs a full health package to nurture the soil. That’s because soil is alive with microbes, earthworms, bugs and their symbiotic relationship is the root of life. They help the nutrient cycling in exchange for plant sugars and proteins. Over the past 20 years, there has been a significant shift in our understanding of soil microbial connections and the community dynamics under the ground, that is the hidden half of nature.

While much of the Earth may be considered “non-living”, the fact is, all of these non-living parts are involved to some extent in living processes. The Gaia theory developed by the chemist James Lovelock and the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the turn of the 21st century suggests that the whole Earth is alive. As other living creatures, the Earth needs “food” for living. People can not merely exploit (e.g. mining, harvesting crops) and nurture (e.g. reducing pollution, bioremediation) the Earth, but we must feed the soil. Feeding the soil by using organic wastes that decomposed by decomposer organisms is the cornerstone of the sustainability of our Blue Earth.

Please contact to learn more about the simple method to feed the soil and sustainability.

– Bintoro Gunadi

Red Worm open eyes 8-8-2013

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