Is soil really just dirt? Is it only used to hold up the plant? Or is it more valuable than what we imagine?
It is funny how sometimes we’re never taught about the importance of soil, or how we should care for it. According to the Bible our bodies were made by it.
Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
So what really is soil? Soil is the mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids and a myriad of organisms that can support plant life. However, it also performs important functions like being a medium for plant growth, a means for water storage, supply and purification; it modifies the atmosphere, and it is also a habitat for organisms that take part in the decomposition and creation of a habitat for other organisms. It is one of the three major natural resources along with air and water. Actually, without it there would be no life.
It can also act as a filter against pollutants. This means that the water in the soil can transport harmful substances to humans and wildlife; such as nitrate, phosphorus and pesticides to water sources such as rivers, while they are important to soil and plant life. Soil can also filter urban pollutants like oil breaking it down into carbon dioxide and water; and metals can be absorbed into plants, which can be disposed of safely.
There are thousands of different types of soil around the world that in fact the USA has more than 20,000 varieties. Soil differs regionally because of the parent material, the climate and terrain of the region, as well as the type of plant life and vegetation present, and also because of human influence.
Soil is not an inexhaustible resource which needs no caring for. There is a major erosion problem affecting soil all over the world. It is a process that involves the removal and transport of soil by wind and water. It is a natural process, but changes in farming and land management practices can cause it to occur much faster than under natural conditions.
The rapid growth of the world’s population has made an increase in the cultivation of land, putting more pressure on the land, leading the soil to lose its structure and cohesion. It’s amazing how not only changes in farming methods contribute to soil erosion, but also activities such as construction, and hill walking have led to severe erosion. However, soil scientists are now developing new methods of land cultivation and management to control the problem.
Healthy soil is important for human health, because what is in the soil affects the health and quality of the food we eat that derives from it.
In conclusion, soils are a dynamic part of the ecosystem whose study crosses many scientific disciplines. The relationship between plants and soils is subtle and complex, involving the interaction of multiple biotic and abiotic factors. Also, a better understanding of soil is leading to new measures to protect and restore soil, and we must be aware of the importance of soil to protect it too.