Wednesday, December 4, 2019

World Soil Day - Build Soil. Help The World.

A drawing of a black rectangle with a green leafed plant growing in it. Some of the soil and leaves are blowing away on the right.Last Thursday Americans celebrated Thanksgiving, which is meant to be a day of gratitude. (Okay, you don’t have to be grateful for mean old Uncle Cyrus). But, as we were celebrating, I believe it is safe to say that very few people thought to be thankful for the ground they were standing on. Or for the soil that produced their annual feast. World Soil Day hopes to change that by building awareness of the precarious position of our soil in the world today.

Red/brown dirt ravines with green forest in the background - soil erosion from deforestation

World Soil Day is an annual event put on by the United Nations. It is observed worldwide on December 5th with outreach, functions and even contests. The basic purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness of and advocate for healthy soil. Every year there is a theme that relates to soil; last year it was soil pollution and this year it is soil erosion. All around the world, our soil is eroding at an alarming rate. According to the UN, one soccer field worth of soil is lost every five seconds and it is not an exaggeration to say that the very food we rely on is being threatened. Climate change (which is an even larger issue) plays a part in increased soil erosion, but an awareness of the importance of healthy soil and good soil management can make a real difference on a micro level. Big changes can be made in small steps. Here is a cool little cartoon on soil health from the World Soil Day site.

Yellow-orange flames in front of three men in turbans and white clothing. There are trees in the background.
Slash and burn farming in India
Aside from wind, water and other climatic factors, in many parts of the world soil erosion and degradation (when what soil is left is no good) is the result of human activity such as ecologically damaging farming methods like slash and burn agriculture. However, healthy soil loss from overgrazing, deforestation, mining and pollution is found everywhere. Combine all that with the extreme storms, drought and flooding that come from climate change and the need to do something is urgent. India, home to over a billion people, is already in crisis. Their largely poor and agrarian population is struggling and every year they are hit with intense monsoons and flooding. While the rains have always been a part of Indian life, they are becoming more and more extreme. The US is not immune to soil problems; this  enlightening article explains why we are running out of soil (including a super-interesting tidbit on the Roman Empire and their soil issues).

The Grand Canyon - the valley is purple-hued with a river running through it. The walls are yellowish. There are rocks and bushes in the foreground.
Here in Arizona, we have the premier example of water-caused soil erosionthe Grand Canyon. The canyon may have taken eons to be created, but we have all seen mini versions of it in our yards after heavy rains. This is a particularly thorny problem here in southern Arizona, where a good portion of our soil contains a Caliche layer. Caliche is, quite literally, as hard as concrete and does not allow water to pass through it. Combine this with the intense storms that we get during our summer monsoons (they can be bad, but not as bad as those in India) and there goes the surface soil.

Aerial view of a giant dust cloud bearing down on housing tracts. Photo by Jason Ferguson
Haboob bearing down on Phoenix
Additionally, we have extremely dangerous and damaging haboobs (dust storms), which are an exceptionally dramatic display of soil erosion. I once had the misfortune of being caught up in one of these on the freeway between Phoenix and Tucson. I am not a person who scares easily, but the whole experience was truly terrifying. Beyond the windshield everything is just a weird tan-orange color and all you can do is hope you don’t run into something and that nothing runs into you. Experts say you should pull over and turn off your lights (and pray nothing finds you), but I just got off on the first exit I could. I found out later that three people had died in a multiple car accident just ahead of me. If I hadn’t made that turn, I would have been a participant in that. Here is a video that really shows what they’re like.

Two hands holding a plant in black dirt. In the background is a field-on the left it is brown and on the right it is green.Addressing soil health is often done best right from home. Here at ARBICO, we have been singing the healthy soil song for decades. We have gathered a great many excellent products that anyone can use in their yard or garden to encourage strong soil that’s rich in microbial life. You could begin with a mineral (or more than one)  like Soil Replenish (Elemite), Andesite, Glacial Rock Dust or Harvest Gold Premium Soil Conditioner (Silica). To add nutrients and jump-start your soil biology, you can add items such as Fulzyme SP, Earth Alive Soil Activator, and Neptune’s Harvest Humate Concentrate. Or you could go the one-stop-shop route and get our Healthy Soil Recipe or John & Bob’s Clay & Hard Soil Kit (excellent for Arizonans). These are just a brief sampling of what we have to offer in the soil building arena, there is much more in our Soil Amendments, Micronutrients & Biostimulants category..

Short clip from the Food and Agriculture Division of the United Nations. The text reads, "Over 33% of the Earth's soils are already degraded and over 90% could become degraded by 2050".
If you are unable to contribute in changing the soil around you, I encourage you to consider recycling your green waste. And if you’re unsure of what to do with it once you’ve collected it, here is my blog with suggestions for that. If you are interested in reading more on soil building and/or soil in general, here is a link to some of our blogs that you may enjoy. Now, go out and get your hands dirty – and help the world!

                                                                                                                               Submitted by Pam

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