Unfortunately, I suspect that it went largely unnoticed by the general public, but December 5 was World Soil Day. Soils may not make many people’s heart go pitter-patter, but in North Dakota and elsewhere where agriculture is so important, the importance of healthy soil cannot be overestimated.
The United Nations General Assembly designated December 5 as the first official World Soil Day back in 2013 “as a means to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.” Official observations were held around the world including UN headquarters in New York and in Sochi, Russia with the Sixth International Scientific and Practical Conference on Food Security and Soil Science.
I took some time to peruse the website of World Soil Day. They have several talking points to consider. For example, “Soils Store and Filter Water.” Healthy soils are key to providing water for crop and other plant growth as well as clean water and resilience in floods and droughts. They also trap pollutants and prevents them from leaching into groundwater. Those issues are also North Dakota issues.
Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production, and its preservation is essential for food security, now and into the future. About 95% of our food is produced directly or indirectly by soil. It supplies the all-important nutrients, water, and oxygen for crop growth. Soil is generally considered a non-renewable resource because it may take up to 1,000 years to produce an inch of soil. Unfortunately, about a third of our soil is moderately to highly degraded because of erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compaction, and chemical pollution. That obviously is not in our best interest.
I cannot help but be reminded of the late Aldo Leopold, father of modern wildlife management. He has an often-quoted sentence in the foreword to his A Sand County Almanac: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” That is true for soils too!
Soil health is going to be a major factor in the ecological and economic future of our state. Find out more on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization webpage on World Soil Day 2019.