Today is World Soil Day 2022. World Soil Day was proclaimed in August 2002 by the International Soil Science Union (IUSS) at its 17th World Congress in Bangkok. This day of action draws attention to the vital importance of our soils as a natural resource. But why are our soils so crucial for our entire ecosystem? What damage is already occurring, and what are the consequences for the future?
Healthy soils as the basis for a functioning ecosystem
95% of global food production depends on healthy soils. Through the food value chain, we are also directly dependent on healthy soils. Regardless of whether we are talking about plants directly consumed as food or whether the plants grown are animal feed for livestock. The basis for both is healthy soils. If this factor is negatively affected, this also has direct consequences for food and feed production.
What damage from poor soils already exists today?
Soil pollution has a direct or indirect impact on all living organisms.
Soil pollution disturbs the balance of beneficial substances contained in the soil. Unnatural, dense substances accumulate in the soil and change its physical properties. Chemical wastes affect (cultivated) plants and harm their biological characteristics. Heavy metals, gases and other wastes accumulated in the soil deteriorate the development and quality of the plants. These negative changes in the soil spread in chains and are transmitted to plants, animals and humans.
What if we continue to be careless with our soil?
As a result of ever poorer soils, it could become increasingly difficult to feed the growing world population in the future. The efficiency with which we have achieved ever-increasing yields in the past is approaching its zenith. After that, any increase in food production efficiency will become more expensive and uneconomical. As a result, the proportion of the world’s undernourished population could rise again.
Desertification ensures that the dry soils can only absorb a small amount of water. More and more floods and inundations could be the result. Air quality also interacts with soil quality. Poor soils and desertification, for example, ensure less and less biodiversity and plant growth (biomass). Less plant mass also means less storage of pollutants (e.g. CO2). The pollutants in our atmosphere are broken down more poorly.