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Wrapping up the International Year of Soils

The 6 key messages to take away from #IYS2015


25 Nov 2015

In 2015 we celebrated the “International Year of Soils” and with good reason. Soil sustains all our agricultural and livestock food production, wood for fuel production, filters water so that we can drink it and fish can live in it. We also use it for construction - therefore it sustains our homes and infrastructure.

As we approach the end of #IYS 2015 here are the six essentials to take away. Share the highlighted "Did You Know" facts on your Twitter profile and promote healthy soils for a healthy life!

1. Soils store and filter water, improving food security

Functional soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and drought. Water infiltration through soil traps pollutants and prevents them from leaching into the groundwater. Moreover, the soil captures and stores water, making it available for absorption by crops.

#DYK: Of the estimated 1.4 billion ha of crop land worldwide, around 80 percent is rainfed and accounts for some 60 percent of global agricultural output.

2. Soils help to combat and adapt to climate change by playing a key role in the carbon cycle

When managed sustainably, soils can play an important role in climate change mitigation by storing carbon (carbon sequestration) and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. FAO promotes a unified approach, known as Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), to develop the technical, policy and investment conditions that support its member countries in achieving food security under climate change.

#DYK:Soils can sequester around 20 PgC (petagrams of carbon) in 25 years, more than 10 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

3. Soils are the foundation for vegetation which is cultivated or managed for feed, fibre, fuel and medicinal products

Fertile soil encourages plant growth by providing plants with nutrients, acting as a water holding tank, and serving as the substrate to which plants anchor their roots. In return, vegetation, tree cover and forests prevent soil degradation and desertification by stabilizing the soil, maintaining water and nutrient cycling, and reducing water and wind erosion.

#DYK: The nutrient content of a plant’s tissues is directly related to the nutrient content of the soil and its ability to exchange nutrients and water with the plant’s roots.

4. A healthy soil is a living soil. Soils host a quarter of our planet’s biodiversity

Nowhere in nature are species so densely packed as in soil communities. Agricultural systems and agro-ecological practices that dedicate great care to nurturing soil biodiversity, such as organic farming, zero-tillage, crop rotations and conservation agriculture, can sustainably increase farm productivity without degrading the soil and water resources.

#DYK: Over 1000 species of invertebrates may be found in a single m2 of forest soils.

5. Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production

Food availability relies on soils. Numerous and diverse farming approaches promote the sustainable management of soils with the goal of improving productivity, for instance: agroecology, conservation agriculture, organic farming, zero tillage farming and agroforestry.

#DYK: By 2050, agricultural production must increase by 60 percent globally to meet food demand alone, and in developing countries, it must increase by almost 100 percent.

6. Soil is a non-renewable resource and its preservation is essential for food security

Soil is a finite resource, meaning its loss and degradation is not recoverable within a human lifespan. Sustainable management of the world’s agricultural soils and sustainable production are imperative for reversing the trend of soil degradation and ensuring current and future global food security.

#DYK: 33 percent of soil is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compaction and chemical pollution.

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