Soil – The Root of all Nutrition
When we think of soil, we picture it as a large sponge soaking up water and nutrients for the plants that grow in it. Soil is a defining factor in what type of crops grow, how well they thrive and how bountiful the produce of a region can be. Collectively, this can be called ‘soil health.’ Let’s spend this ‘World Soil Day’ learning about this natural reservoir of nutrition.
What is it made of?
Just like buildings are made up of bricks & concrete; soil can be made up of gravel, sand, silt and clay. They are found in varying proportions around the world to make up all the different types of soil we see. They’re held together by old roots, bacteria, fungi and other biological matter to form a solid, aggregate structure. Good soil structure can retain air pockets, nutrients, organic carbon and water – all of which are essential for growing plants.
What affects soil health?
Several unhealthy farming practices like tilling and over-irrigation destroy this soil structure and affect the yield of farmland. Soil erosion is the primary effect of tilled soil. Nutrient-rich topsoil is blown away by wind leaving the soil barren and infertile.
Tilled soil also loses the ability to retain water effectively and the life-cycles of useful soil bacteria are disrupted. Apart from this, plenty of useful soil carbon is also lost to the atmosphere – where it turns into an atmospheric pollutant.
Over irrigation can clog up the pores in the soil and create a hazardous environment for plants. Excess water can also wash away essential nutrients and leave little for the plants themselves.
How can we improve soil health?
As an alternative, there are several sustainable practices such as conservation-tilling, growing cover crops and more. Drip irrigation is one such practice where adequate quantities of water and fertilizer is directed right to the roots of the plant and minimizing the effects of over-irrigation.
At Monsanto, we work with farmers to increase adoption of such techniques. We promote sustainable practices by spreading awareness among farmers and helping them procure the equipment they would need to employ such techniques.
Learn more about conservation tilling here:
Practices such as planting cover crops between primary crop cycles prevent soil erosion and keep the fertile topsoil in place. Growing highly productive crops absorbs more carbon and convert it into more plant matter – keeping soil healthy and the atmosphere clean.
Why should we do it?
Along with the growing world population, comes a growing need to meet the nutritional demands of billions in a sustainable manner. Our CEO, Hugh Grant, explains the need for sustainable agriculture by carving an apple.
If that tiny sliver of apple skin is all we have, we must make the most of it. Let’s employ more sustainable agricultural practices and carbon neutral crop production to increase the yield of our farms and ensure everyone on the planet has access to a healthy, fulfilling meal.
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