Happy Soil, Happy Earth.
7th Dec, 2022
Soil plays a very important role in the long-term sustainability of any farm. It is, in essence, the foundation that holds everything together. You've heard it before — organic food is good for you. But what does organic mean, exactly? The movement has been instrumental in making society think more about the food we eat, the products we buy and the impact these have on our world. In ode to World Soil Day which was on Monday, let’s find out the implications of organic farming vs conventional farming, why it’s important and what you can do to help.
Farming can be divided into two categories: conventional farming and organic farming. The main difference between the two lies in the use of synthetic chemicals. Conventional farms use synthetic chemicals such as fertilisers and pesticides. In contrast, organic farms rely on crop rotation and natural means such as compost and mulch to enhance growth and control pests.
Organic vs Conventional
Organic agricultural systems help build the soil up by maintaining its fertility and structure, keeping it ‘alive’ and it is considered a sustainable practice, but this does come at the cost of some yield. Where as conventional farming helps to maintain high yields, but such methods can contribute to soil degradation over time leading to what is called ‘dead’ soil.
The difference between alive and dead soil refers to the presence of soil organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and worms. Soil that is alive is teeming with these microorganisms, which are essential for maintaining the health and productivity of the soil. In contrast, dead soil is lacking in these crucial soil organisms, and as a result, it is less productive and less able to support plant growth.
Why it matters to us?
Did you know that 95% of our food comes from soil and the current health of global soil is only getting worse as around 33% is already degraded and more is deteriorating at an accelerating rate. This is a serious cause for concern as with declining soil fertility comes significant drops in the vitamin and nutrient content of the food it produces. Additionally, a loss of soil fertility contributes to low crop yield and overall crop failure, leading to hunger and malnutrition in local populations, thus feeding the poverty cycle (1).
The process of Sustainable Soil Management:
Sustainable soil management is a set of practices that aim to maintain and enhance the health and productivity of the soil while minimising environmental impacts and ensuring long-term sustainability. The four main principles of sustainable soil management often found in organic farming practices are; 1) maintain soil health, 2) protect soil erosion and 3) enhance soil fertility and conserve soil.
What can we do to support? (2)
- Support farmers that are focusing on bringing back soil healthy and diversity through sustainable farming practices and responsible fertilizer use
- Commit to the circular economy by recycling food and other nutrient sources to return to the soil as compost.
- Diversify our diets to include more pulses and seasonal fruit and vegetables that require less intensive farming to produce and support crop rotation.