Soil

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Field with mixed crop pineapples and cassava in Pak Chong, Thailand. Red soil from tropical rain forest that was cut down a few years ago. Soon the fertility will be gone.

The soil is the mother of the earth. Soil is where food comes from.Today we are destroying soils at a scale never seen before.

Soil is damaged by synthetic fertilizers and insecticides, which kills the life forms in the soil, and by mechanical tilling/plowing. In the last forty years, we have been able to use more chemical and larger machines, and subsequently destroyed more soil than ever before. On many agricultural areas in Europe, losses of top soil amount to many tons per hectare per year! (see picture below, article from European Commission)

Soil erosion due to water run-off in Western Europe. (from www.eea.europa.eu)

Soil erosion due to water run-off in Western Europe. (from www.eea.europa.eu)

Around 20% of the farmlands in Europe lose more than 10 t/ha/year, which is more than 1 kilo per square meter. This is a lot of soil, which causes damage somewhere else, by filling rivers, creeks and cellars. The only way to replace the soil is to build it again from the top. Unfortunately, Europe is one of the best continents in the world in this respect, and in most other areas of the world, the situation worse.

In the past, grazing by goats and other livestock was a main driver of soil degradation, but now the industrial agriculture seems to dominate.

Soil erosion in Limburg, Netherlands. (from kwaad.net)

Soil erosion in Limburg, Netherlands. (from kwaad.net)

Most of the lands that are now used for farming grain used to be forest, with a thick layer of rich humus covering the earth. By cutting down the forests, we can grow grains for harvest for a few years, but sooner or later the land is destroyed.

We have to take better care of the soils. The best way that we know of is to grow more trees.

The soil can be an important water reservoir.

The soil is an important water reservoir, if there are roots and dead organic matter.

 

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