THE SOIL CRISIS- Why you should be worried

The general public perceives the solutions to climate change on a basic level: they are

told to reuse, renew, and recycle until we are green again. Children in schools are taught the fundamental actions required to save the Earth. These actions are necessary, but they won’t stop what’s coming. If action isn’t taken, we won’t be able to prevent the droughts and global warming coming our way. To take action, it starts with the very life we walk on: our dying soil. 

Our soil is dying because of the farming methods, such as tillage, and chemicals inserted into the soil that are depleting it. Soil depletion happens when that which contributes to soil fertility are eliminated, and soil fertility is not managed under certain conditions. Nutrients are disguised with pesticides, which may lead to crop abundance and pest resistance, but with the detrimental side effect that rids a crop of its health and nutrients. 

The soil food web, as an effect, becomes unbalanced. The bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes in the soil make up the soil food web as they break down organic matter to release nutrients to the soil and plants. As the soil food web becomes unbalanced from soil depletion, the efficiency of breaking down soil organic matter is decreased, and less nutrients are available for the plants. Alongside farming methods and human interference, erosion of the soil is also depleting it and taking soil biodiversity to a point of no return. 

These drying soils are retaining less and less water, and plant growth is further hindered. Water in soil is necessary, because it permits absorption of nutrients in the soil. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides compromise soil’s protection from disease by replacing true nutrients, but water retention will provide disease resistance by helping the soil absorb the right nutrients. Adequate soil moisture will also thicken the soil as it holds in more water, allowing plant roots to extend deeper into the soil. This strengthens plant growth, ability to withstand weather conditions, and produce more. Improved water retention can help slow down the rate at which soils are depleting, 

WIthout this, the depleted soils will hurt the plants’ ability to absorb nutrients released from the soil, and poor plant growth will harm the functions that are responsible for efficient carbon sequestration. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and transfer carbon rich compounds to the soil through the roots of the plant. This carbon is important for the soil, because it helps the growth of bacteria and fungi that are crucial for nutrient cycling. Majority of the carbon in soil is stored in fungi. When plants are growing poorly and functioning improperly, enough carbon is not released into the soil, and instead gets released into the atmosphere. 

When carbon is released into the atmosphere from poor plant ability, the atmosphere’s carbon levels increase at a higher rate than that which is sequestered into the soil. Carbon in the atmosphere is at a higher number now than it has ever been, and a domino effect of issues starting from mismanagement of the soil and poor water retention has led to this. Higher temperatures have been directly correlated to higher atmospheric carbon levels, and global warming is affecting us as humans directly. Droughts are approaching us in the near future, especially in the western United States of America. A stop to climate change comes from a change in the soil. 

Water and soil organic matter: the two necessities for vitality of the soil food web. Improved water retention and addition of soil organic matter will strengthen plant functions, and its abilities to properly sequester carbon. Healthy soil must be the superhero that captures the carbon from the atmosphere, and stops the Earth from facing devastation by drought and increase in temperatures.

 

 

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