Celebrating Soil For World Soil Day

Posted on Thursday, 5 November 2020 under Local Food & Agriculture

World Soil Day is less than a month away. On December 5th, we want to take a moment to appreciate soil and all that it does for us. Soil is the foundation of a healthy ecosystem, home to many of earth’s living things, including bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, organic matter, fungi, etc. Whether on a farm or in our backyards, taking care of the soil and building healthy soil is important because of the significant ways soil impacts the environment and climate change.  Through the management of all soils, there is great potential to capture carbon in the ground as well as reduce and properly manage fertilizer inputs that result in harmful emissions. Caring for the soil in these ways increases biodiversity, reduces greenhouse gases, and results in cleaner water for drinking and crops. Ultimately, soils are responsible for the nutritious and delicious food we eat; let’s show our soils some love.

On-farm practices for building healthy soil include, but are not limited to cover cropping, no or reduced tillage, compost application, no synthetic pesticides, long term field cropping, diversified crop rotation, maintaining soil cover, and agroforestry. Farmers can adopt any of these practices to continue to maintain good quality soil. Higher levels of soil organic matter improve soil structure and reduce the chances of erosion. Healthier soils improve the quality of surrounding ecosystems and the plants that feed off the soil. Taking care of and appreciating soil is hugely beneficial for food production. These practices can be applied on a small or large scale. Read our full story on the Importance of Soil Health.

For home gardeners, these practices can be applied on a smaller scale. Our 2019 report, Climate Change Mitigation Opportunities in Canadian Agriculture and Food Systems, outlines practices to avoid that include plowing, rototilling, and extensive digging. Home gardeners can build healthy soil for their plants to thrive in. Gardens can make a great impact on a small scale. One of the steps for a home gardener is to always have your soil covered. This is accomplished through keeping plants in the ground all year and leaving decaying material in your garden through the winter. Read our story, Your Garden as a Carbon Sink, to learn more.

Don’t have any soil space? It should still be important to you. Show your appreciation for soil by shopping at your local farmers’ market all year. Find out more about where your food comes from and ask farmers how they build their soil—petition in your local community for more urban farms and community gardens. Ask your local government to explore how we can better manage and take care of soils in residential and rural areas. There are plenty of ways to celebrate soil!

Soil is the starting point for everything we do; it should be a priority. The earth’s soils provide nutritious food for us and a habitat for a variety of living things. Healthy soils build healthy ecosystems. Let’s continue to appreciate our earth’s amazing soils, not just on World Soil Day, but every day.