It’s alarming time to nourish soil
“The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” - Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Soil is very important when it comes to our day today life. It not only acts as a host for any life to grow but also transforms air to breathe. Soil is the backbone of our food security. Without healthy and good quality soils, we wouldn’t be able to get food and fuel. Soil helps anchor plants and provides them essential elements of water and nutrition. In the process, plants prevent soil erosion and provide organic matter for all other living beings. Soil is a living source, home to more than 25% of our planet’s biodiversity and the key to our food security.
Soil biodiversity and soil organic carbon are vital to the way ecosystems function and they largely determine the role of land in producing food, storing water and mitigating climate change. Healthy soil mitigates the impacts of extreme weather events.Soil is also the foundation of our buildings, roads, houses and schools. In fact, soil plays a vital role in the construction of buildings, houses and offices.
Scarcity of healthy Soil
With rapid increase in population, the demand for food is increasing day by day. By the year 2050 the global population is projected to be 9billion and the world will need to produce an estimated 60% more food. While food production is increasing globally, the land on which agriculture depends is degrading at an alarming rate, jeopardizing any progress in future. Ironically, even if, India has 18% of the world’s population, it only has 2% of the overall land area. India is drenched with the necessity of food but not with the availability of water and top soil. 30% of India’s land has now degraded due to bad Agri-products like guzzling crops which alarmingly threatens soil health and water. Some of the examples are paddy, sugarcane, etc.
In order to ensure food security there is an urgency to improve the productivity of existing cultivated lands and to bring additional land under plough. The wastelands which are unutilized and have potential to produce food grain and provide vegetation cover may significantly contribute in the endeavor. According to the Indian Space Research Organization’s land atlas 2016, about 96 million hectares or 29.23 % of India’s land area is undergoing degradation.
This is caused due to multiple forces such as deforestation, wetland drainage, overgrazing, unsustainable land-use practices and the expansion of agricultural, industrial and urban areas and now climate change. This process need to be reversed because degraded land loses the ability to support plant life and provide ecosystem services such as management of water systems and storage of carbon dioxide, one of the six main greenhouse gases. As we know that soil quality also affects the plant nutrients apart from the use of pesticides which is used to enrich the quality of vegetables, fruits, pulses, grains, etc.
Despite restoring degraded land, farmers nowadays use hybrid seeds to improve the quality of foods which either directly or indirectly poses a threat to the health of human life. The price of ignoring ‘desi’ varieties may be huge in long run. It may resist many pests and don’t present much problems during cultivation. However, it may debilitate the health conditions of human who are not even aware of it.
Reports from International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and United Nations say that the present practices on natural resources are producing alarming impact on food production systems. These changes affect the land, soil and biodiversity of the regions. The pandemic is a live illustration of the need for more sustained food systems that work with nature, ensuring food security and decent livelihoods for a rapidly growing population.
Some solutions known to everyone
This can be done by planting more trees, building small dams in gullies to slow down water run-off, or digging channels across farm slopes to divert water protecting areas likely to be eroded. Farmers can play a big role in this regard. They should be equipped with proper knowledge and facilities to bring out such changes. This can be promoted by incentivizing the farmers for Agro-ecological plantations, Agro-forestry and organic plantations. Farmers may take over waste or degraded land and restore lands as carbon sink and produce more nutrition per acres; as farmers will care for these lands. “If We Ate Today, Thank A Farmer.”
Farming has been the basis of India’s economy even before the pre-industrial era and soil is the basis of farming. The type of crop that would be grown using a particular type of soil is determined by the components of soil and climate influence of region. Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is the main soil fertilizer influences the soil structure and crop growth. Both compost and biochar have high contents of stable C and are therefore an obvious way for increasing the soil organic carbon (SOC) content, which is regarded as a major indicator for soil quality. For our food security we have to assure about soil quality. As the quality of soil affects the availability of nutrients in our foods. As we all know, food is the most essential requirement for sustenance of human life. Our existence depends upon food even if we don’t have shelter over our head or clothes on our body. Healthy foods stimulate us to lead a healthy and prosperous life. So, it is our onus to preserve the quality of soil and take initiative to improve the biological health of soil. Without soil human life would be very difficult. We build on soil as well as with it and in it.