This year Soil Day, a day supported by the United Nations amongst many others, is focused on stopping the erosion of soils on farmland and elsewhere across the planet. We rely on soil for 95% of our food crops and yet we, as a species, have failed to ensure it’s health, covering it in chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, and we are now at a point where farmlands are often in danger of failing. Erosion not only degrades soil, it adds to flooding pressures, kills soil biodiversity, and stops the mitigation of climate by stopping the soil locking in carbon, and in fact with the opposite happening and carbon being released.
In 2014 Sheffield University undertook research that showed that our urban soils in gardens, parks and allotments, were in fact healthier than much farmland. So whilst we as an organisation ask for a better farming system that supports agroecology and more local farming systems that support local economies, we are also aware that Incredible Edible groups support the soils in many a town or city.
So how can we, as food citizens, support soils?
Well the obvious is to start with ensuring we are looking after the soils which we steward. Mulching, using cover crops and green manures, feeding the soil with natural fertilisers such as compost teas which feed the soil and support more biodiversity in that soil, are all vital to ensure the health of the land we use to grow. Whether growing in the soil or in raised beds, supporting the soil in which we grow is important for healthy, organic crops and for the health of the planet. But what can we do, as citizens, to support stopping soil erosion?
Of course it goes back to the local. Support small, local, agroecological farmers and small food producers. Buy vegetables from your local Community Supported Agriculture project, if you eat meat buy from local farmers who are working towards biodiversity support through mob grazing and mixed grassland, and ensure your food has as short a distribution chain as is possible. The shorter the chain the more likely you will be able to find out who grew what’s on your plate and be sure that their focus is on not just growing food, but protecting the planet and preserving nature.
There’s lots more info, including some great infographics, gifs and shareable links at http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/resources/events/detail/en/c/1170374/so get involved. We’ll be focusing our social media on soil for the next few days so do get involved and let’s keep the conversation growing.