5th December celebrates the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to the human wellbeing through its contribution to food, water and energy security and thus its vital role in mitigating biodiversity loss and climate change.
This is an Awareness Campaign & we can help conserve the soil in various ways.
Soil is one of the most important natural resources. It is one of the three main factors responsible for plant growth, the others being Sunlight and Water. Plants extract water and nutrients from the soil. A food chain, as we know, starts from plants and plants need soil for their survival. So soil is an important constituent of the ecological system and its conservation is essential. But the importance of soil conservation is relatively less talked about as compared to conservation of water and other natural resources. The almost-omnipresent soil is taken for granted. We don’t pay much attention to conserving it. We rarely even think of it as a natural resource or as a part of the natural wealth that needs to be preserved.
The idea of conserving soil is to prevent it from being eroded and from losing its fertility due to alteration in its chemical composition. Here are some ways to conserve soil.
1. Plant Trees: We all know that roots of trees firmly hold on to the soil. As trees grow tall, they also keep rooting deeper into the soil. As the roots of trees spread deep into the layers of soil, they hold it tightly, thus preventing soil erosion. Soil under a vegetative cover is saved from erosion due to wind as this cover acts as a wind barrier.
2. Build Terraces: Terracing is a very good method of soil conservation. A terrace is a leveled section of a hilly cultivated area. Owing to its unique structure, it prevents rapid surface runoff of water. Terracing gives the landmass a stepped appearance, thus slowing the washing down of soil. Dry stonewalling is a method used to create terraces in which stone structures are made without using mortar for binding.
3. No-till Farming: The process of preparing soil for plowing is known as tilling. No-till farming is a way of growing crops without disturbing it through tillage. The process of tilling is beneficial in mixing fertilizers in the soil, making rows and preparing the surface for sowing. But the tilling activity can lead to compaction of soil, loss of organic matter in the soil and the death of soil organisms. No-till farming is a way to prevent the soil from this harm.
4. Contour Plowing: This practice of farming on slopes takes into account the slope gradient and the elevation of soil along the slope. It is the method of plowing across the contour lines of a slope. This method helps in slowing the water runoff and prevents soil from being washed away along the slope. Contour plowing also helps in percolation of water in the soil.
5. Crop Rotation: Some pathogens tend to build up in soil if the same crops are cultivated again and again. Continuous cultivation of the same crop also leads to imbalance in the fertility demands of the soil. To save the soil from these adverse effects, crop rotation is practiced. It is a method of growing a series of dissimilar crops in an area. Crop rotation also helps in the improvement of soil structure and fertility.
6. Maintain Soil pH: The contamination of soil by addition of acidic or basic pollutants and due to acid rains has an adverse effect on the soil pH. Soil pH is an indicator of the level of nutrients in soil. The uptake of nutrients by plants also depends on the pH of soil. Maintaining the correct value of soil pH, is thus essential for soil conservation.
7. Water the Soil: We water plants, we water the crops, but do we water the soil? We seldom do. Watering soil is a good measure of soil conservation. Watering the soil along with plants growing in it is a way to prevent soil erosion caused by wind.
8. Salinity Management: The salinity of soil increases due to excessive accumulation of salts in the soil. This has a negative effect on the metabolism of crops. The salinity of soil is detrimental to the vegetative life in it. The death of vegetation leads to soil erosion. Hence, salinity management is an indirect way of conserving soil.
9. Promote Helpful Soil Organisms: Nitrogen-fixing and denitrifying bacteria are important constituents of the nitrogen cycle. They live in soil. Bacteria and fungi help keep the soil healthy. Organisms like earthworms help decompose organic material in the soil. They aid soil aeration and help it maintain porosity. Rodents too, help soil the same way. This increases the absorbing capacity of soil. Earthworms, through aeration of soil, enhance the availability of macronutrients. These helpful organisms boost soil fertility and help in soil conservation.
10. Grow Indigenous Crops: Planting native crops is beneficial for soil conservation. If non-native plants are grown, fields should be bordered by indigenous crops to prevent soil erosion, thus achieving soil conservation.