This is part one of a five-part Farm Gate series on soil—the foundation of our sustainable future.
It’s More than Dirt
It’s easy to think of soil as just dirt. But the benefits of soil go beyond simply providing the foundation upon which we build our homes, walkways and roads. But if it’s not just dirt, what is it?
The ground beneath our feet is made of minerals (45 per cent), equal parts air and water (50 per cent), and a small amount of organic matter, such as living and dead plants and microbes (5 per cent). These elements are vital to plant life and food production. When balanced, they make for healthy, productive soil that can also offset the effects of climate change.
Microbes living in the soil convert atmospheric nitrogen and other nutrients into food plants use to grow. This process releases carbon but is naturally balanced by the carbon absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. When this cycling of nutrients is optimized, soil structure and plant growth improve, which can lead to greater uptake of greenhouse gases by plants. The soil also becomes less compact and can absorb more water after heavy rainfalls to reduce flooding and water pollution.
Soil is a precious and finite resource. Keeping soil healthy is critical for building climate change resilience, putting food on our tables and sustaining life.
Mismanaging soil can affect soil health by disrupting nutrient balance and structure. Many farmers practice soil management strategies to reduce the risk of damage and improve soil health. In our upcoming issues, we’ll dig into the best management practices used by farmers in the watershed to protect this important resource.
Take a Virtual Road Trip
Join the Ontario Soil Network for a virtual farm tour. Meet Ontario farmers and learn about the management practices they’re using on their farms. Visit their website to download the Soil Road Trip app or view the road trip in your browser.
Your Countryside Stewardship Team