Sacramento, California - Today is World Soil Day, as recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of natural systems and a vital contributor to human well-being.
One of the primary building blocks of a successful civilization is developing a reliable food supply. In California and the United States we have achieved this spectacularly.
However, our world population continues to skyrocket towards a projected nine billion people by 2050. And our planet is getting warmer and its climate less predictable.
But the solution may be closer than we realize. It may be just below our feet: In the soil.
Soil supports our houses, roads, crops and our very lives. It silently churns microbial magic, turning carbon sources like old plants and animals into the nutrients needed to support new plant growth. When healthy, the soil ecosystem also harbors the ability to hold onto water molecules—and release them gradually, mitigating the climatic excesses of both floods and droughts.
Additionally, as soil builds organic matter it transports carbon from the air (where it is a greenhouse gas) to underground (where it is food for plants and microbes). This alchemy occurs with little attention from us. Now, however, we are working actively in California to remove excess carbon from our atmosphere while enriching soil fertility.
Farmers throughout California are using techniques such as conservation tillage, cover crops and diverse rotations to rebuild and regenerate their soil. Through these systems they are enhancing the soil’s microbial life which, in turn, sustains ours.
Resources are available for farmers interested in building healthier soil. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical assistance as well as payments through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to share the cost of adopting healthy soil practices. The University of California and a growing number of non-profits and industry groups are also offering assistance.
In 2017 CDFA will begin rolling out its very own Healthy Soils Program, financed as part of the California Climate Investments funded with Cap-and-Trade funds. The Healthy Soils Program recognizes the climate change benefits of soil-building practices. The details of the roll-out are still being outlined and information will follow soon regarding how the public can provide input.
So a very happy World Soil Day to you! It may be just one day, but it holds bright promise for many happy and productive tomorrows.