We know more than ever about the abundance of life in the soil. Now we have to step up to save it. Look down. You may not see the soil beneath your feet as teeming with life, but it is. Better scientific tools are helping us understand that dirt isn’t just dirt. Life in the soil includes microbes like bacteria and fungi; invertebrates such as earthworms and nematodes; plant roots; and even mammals like gophers and badgers who spend part of their time below ground. It’s commonly said that a quarter of all the planet’s biodiversity lives in the soil, but that’s likely a vast understatement. Many species that reside there, particularly microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and protists, aren’t yet known to science.
More than half of the world’s agricultural soils are already degraded, and both scientists and UN agencies agree that the remaining soil will only take us another 40 to 50 years. Yet despite the threat this poses to biodiversity, the climate and global food security, soil health receives less attention than other looming environmental crises. That’s why yogi, mystic and visionary Sadhguru has set off on a 100-day, 30,000 kilometer (approximately 18,641 mile) motorcycle journey to save soil. “Everybody knows the problem. Everybody generally knows what is the solution, but they’ve all been waiting for one idiot to come and bell the cat,” the 64-year-old said during a talk in Tbilisi, Georgia, on day 37 of his journey. “So here I am.”
Right now, soil health is declining because intensive farming practices, including monocultures, deplete soil organic matter, destroy the biological health of soil, and increase the soil’s vulnerability to erosion. Concurrently, floods disperse prime topsoil from highly erodible monocrop operations while pesticides and commercial fertilizers kill the beneficial insects and microorganisms that create and support healthy soils. As the land is being degraded, farmers increasingly feel the effects of unsustainable farming practices and climate change. For example, many farmers in the Midwest were unable to plant crops last year because of the floods. Farm debt has now reached levels not seen since 1980, and last year, Farm Aid’s hotline call volume increased 109% from 2017.
By Staff of Sustainable Pulse - In contrast to what its manufactures purport, glyphosate persists in soils affecting not only soil fertility and crop quality, but also human and environmental health. The research study by the Dutch University of Wageningen and Rikilt laboratories, jointly with the JRC, reveals that among 317 EU soil samples of arable land, 42% contained AMPA, the most toxic metabolite of glyphosate, while glyphosate was found in 21% of the soils; 18% of the samples had both. The study was conducted in six crop systems along 11 EU member states comprising soils under different geographical and climatic conditions. Denmark, the UK and Portugal are the worst in this spectrum, with the highest detection frequency, while Italy and Greece seem to be the ones using less glyphosate on their crops. However, and most notably, these 2 molecules could be found in every tested member state. All tested crops presented glyphosate and AMPA residues. By far, the worst case was that of Portuguese vineyards, while no crops exhibited patterns of reduced reliance on glyphosate compared to others. The results prove that the accumulation and persistence of glyphosate in soil is underestimated by European authorities, as is the harm it may cause to environmental ecosystems. The concentrations of glyphosate and AMPA found in the study have been shown to be toxic to soil organisms such as earthworms, beneficial bacteria and fungi , as glyphosate weakens down plants’ natural defences making them susceptible to pathogens.
By Nancy Averett for EHP - On a bright October morning Dave Brandt tromps through the middle of his central Ohio wheat field. The grain was harvested months ago, but there isn’t an inch of bare dirt anywhere. Instead, more than 10 varieties of plants, including crimson clover, pearl millet, and Austrian winter peas, form a “cover crop cocktail” that stretches all the way to the road bordering his property. “This will be here all winter,” Brandt says. “And in the spring, we’ll plant corn right into this.”
A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt In his opening address to the Savory Institute global conference in London on August 1, Alan Savory said that while agriculture is the foundation of civilization and of any stable economy, it is also, when poorly practiced, the most destructive industry—even more so than coal mining. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that since 1960, a third of the world’s arable land has been lost through erosion and other degradation. Much of the destruction is caused by increased demand for GMO corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beet and alfalfa crops, used to feed factory farm animals, to produce highly-subsidized yet inefficient biofuels and to make processed foods. The perpetual cycle of planting mono-crops, saturating the crops and fields with toxic chemicals, tilling them under and replanting them destroys the soil and degrades the land by depleting soil nutrients and causing erosion. Overgrazing pastures instead of managing livestock herds holistically, using a system of planned rotational grazing, is equally destructive.