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World Soil Day

Key Messages

"Caring for the planet starts from the ground"...The central theme of the World Soil Day 2017

Soil, like air and water, is critical to life on earth. Caring for the planet and its environment means caring for its soils.

Soils are incredibly resilient, but they are also fragile and can be easily damaged or lost. If we are really committed for a better future for all of us and the next generations, let’s start working from the ground, our soils.

Unlocking the full potential of soils to not only support food production, but also to sequester more carbon, store and supply more clean water, maintain biodiversity, and increase environmental resilience to a changing climate, requires the sustainable management of soils.

Soils are essential to achieve food security and eradicate hunger

“Soils are the foundation of agriculture, it is where food begins."

Ninety five per cent of food is produced in our soils. Without healthy soils we wouldn’t be able to grow our food. By 2050, the global population will grow to more than nine billion, compelling farmers to produce 49 per cent more food under a climate which is increasingly changing and difficult to predict. Without healthy soils, we will not be able to face this challenge and sustain human development.

Furthermore, soil is a non-renewable resource in the human timeline, we can’t replace all the healthy soil we lose. It can take up to 1000 years to form 1cm of soil.  Soil preservation is essential for food security and to ensure our sustainable future.

Soils are essential to improve nutrition

“Good health starts with nutrition…If we feed the soil, it will feed us.”

Food security and nutrition rely on healthy soils which are the foundation of our food systems. Nearly 80 per cent of the average calorie intake per person comes from crops directly grown in the soil. Nearly all plant nutrients are taken up from the soil and need to be present in sufficient quantity and availability in the soil. The nutrient supply to our crops and food relies in the first place on the nutrients present in soils. Two million people still suffer from lack of nutritional deficiencies. Soils are deteriorating worldwide, becoming less fertile. They provide less nutrients to plants, leading to serious nutrient deficiencies in crops, with direct consequences on human being.

Soils are essential to provide clean water

“The water we drink is purified by soils. Let’s minimize contamination and give our soils only what they need.”

Prevention of soil contamination remains the best way to ensure healthy soils and food safety. Healthy soils have the ability to filter toxic materials, like heavy metals, pesticides, salts, sediments and viruses from freshwater resources, preventing them from building up to toxic levels and becoming pollutants. A wise and integrated use of chemical and organic fertilizers prevents the accumulation of nutrients in soils and their leakage into ground- and fresh water, causing pollution of our water supply. Maintaining the filter function of soils is important for everyone who enjoys a fresh cup of clean water!

Soils are essential to mitigate and adapt to climate change

“Healthy soils are our silent allies to combat climate change.”

Soils constitute the largest organic carbon pool on the Earth. Healthy soils can potentially store three times as much organic carbon as the atmosphere and the vegetable world. Healthy soils contribute to mitigating climate change by maintaining or increasing its carbon content.

Healthy soils improve resilience to floods and droughts, impacts of a changing climate: healthy soils with a high organic matter content can store large amounts of water, essential during drought periods. Soils can also act as a sponge when rains are limited.

Soils are essential to preserve biodiversity

“Soils provide one of the largest reservoirs of biodiversity on earth, hosting a quarter of our planet’s biodiversity.”

There are more living individual organisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on earth.

Soils biodiversity keeps soils alive: agricultural diversification and proximity to forested zones increase soil biodiversity.

Soils are essential to reduce forced migration

“Without healthy soils people can’t produce their food and are forced to migrate to feed themselves and their families.”

More than 10 million people have abandoned their homelands due to environmental issues including drought, soil erosion, desertification and deforestation. Avoiding soil degradation and copying with long-term droughts can therefore change the future of human migration.