Celebrating World Soil Day
Soil is not something we can afford to take for granted. It’s the source of food and medicine, and when it’s healthy, it can help preserve clean water, increase biodiversity, and support mitigation of climate change. As it takes more than 1,000 years to grow 4 inches of soil, fertile ground is not an unlimited resource.
Healthy soil is the world’s lifeline, and ensures a steady food supply.
On December 5th, 2021, the United Nations aims to bring attention to the threat of soil salinization with its 8th annual World Soil Day. Though long in the planning, World Soil Day officially started in 2014 as a means of raising awareness of the importance of healthy soil and to advocate for good management of soil resources. World Soil Day hopes to address the growing challenges in soil management, fight soil salinization, and encourage soil health.
The campaign for this year’s World Soil Day, “Halt soil salinization, boost soil productivity” seeks to bring focus to the global threat of soil salinization. Salt-affected soils present a problem at global level for agricultural production, food security and environmental sustainability in arid and semi-arid regions.
Salts are present naturally in soils and water, and may support rich ecosystems. However, droughts and human activities, especially improper irrigation, can increase the amount of water-soluble salts found in soil to harmful levels, a process called salinization. Soil salinization breaks down our soils and reduces their ability to successfully grow food. Soil salinization, as well as sodification (a high accumulation of sodium in soil) are major soil degradation processes threatening ecosystems.
In addition to reducing agricultural productivity, salt-affected soils seriously impact other soil functions as well, such as decreasing water quality, soil erosion and soil biodiversity — there are more organisms in one gram of healthy soils than there are people on Earth. Salt-affected soils reduce the ability of crops to take up water, decrease micronutrient availability, and are less effective at buffering and filtering against pollutants. They also concentrate ions that are toxic to plants and contribute to soil structure degradation. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates the global annual cost of lost crop production due to salt-induced land degradation to be $27.3 billion dollars. The rise of salt-affected soils also affects human migration, forcing people to leave farmland that can no longer sustain agricultural production.
With World Soil Day, the FAO wants to continue the discussion about the far-reaching effects of salt-affected soils, but also promote positive action. With media outreach and events, World Soil Day can hopefully provide a platform to advocate for the use of sustainable farming systems adapted to saline environments, and prevent the unsustainable farming practices that lead to salt-affected soils. It’s a day to remind us of an incredible natural resource and to urge policy development and implementation to bring good soil management practices, based on scientific evidence, to the mainstream To commemorate the observance of World Soil Day, FAO is holding a virtual ceremony on December 3rd with the participation of the FAO Director-General and thousands of soil enthusiasts. You can find more soil information, and campaign materials on FAO’s website. To learn more about how Whole Foods Market is supporting producers who use regenerative agricultural processes, check out our feature here on the Whole Story