As per UN, "one third of our global soils are already degraded. Soil pollution is a worldwide problem which degrades our soils, poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe."
HEALTHY SOIL FOR NUTRITIOUS FOOD -
If nutrients are missing from the soil, can we expect to get food that is healthy?
49% of soils (and hence crops) in India are deficient in Zn. Zinc deficiency affects the skin and gastrointestinal tract; brain and central nervous system, immune, skeletal, and reproductive systems. Likewise, Indian soils are deficient in iron (which causes anemia - common among 50% Indian women), Manganese (whose deficiency increases risk of epilepsy, osteoporosis, diabetes etc) etc.
Farmers use excess urea, DAP, toxic pesticides etc. in the intensive cropping system for faster and higher yields. Produce is not only lacking in micro-nutrients such as above but also high in carcinogenic chemical residues.
Natural farming 'solutions' such as 'Jeevamrit', 'Panchgavya' etc. are extremely rich in nutrients - both macro and micro - that benefit the soil, food and our health. They also meet the food security concerns (A case study by the United Nations)
HEALTHY SOIL FOR CLEAN WATER -
Groundwater provides the largest source of usable water storage. Groundwater pollution most often results from improper disposal of wastes on land. Major sources include industrial and household chemicals and garbage landfills, excessive fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture, industrial waste lagoons, sewage sludge and septic systems.
Soil acts as a sponge to take up and retain water. Soil texture and structure greatly influence water infiltration, permeability, and water-holding capacity. Organic matter percentage influences water-holding capacity. As the percentage of organic increases, the water-holding capacity increases because of the affinity organic matter has for water.
Pore space in soil is the conduit that allows water to infiltrate and percolate. It also serves as the storage compartment for water, and natural soil ecology. But because of wrong agriculture practices - soil compaction is reducing yield by 60% and at the same time disallowing water and air exchange in the soil.
So to keep our water coming, we need to do 3 things:
- Reduce pollutants in soil.
- Increase the organic matter.
- Adopt minimum tillage agriculture to keep up the porosity (like ancient practice of tilling with oxen)
HEALTHY SOIL FOR SAFE AIR -
Organic carbon content in the soil has been reducing because of the way we treat our soils. We compact it, kill the ecology - the billions of microorganisms, earthworms and other friends - by throwing in chemicals and plastics. These guys were doing a big job for us - carbon sequestration - which means keeping carbon locked up in our soil & making it fertile.
But since we are hell bent on killing our friends below our feet - organic carbon has been reducing - and since nothing is created or destroyed in this universe - it has to change its form and go somewhere. Yes the carbon in the soil is 'lost' in the air as Carbon Dioxide and Methane etc. - the same gases which are now polluting our atmosphere and causing climate change.
Fresh air bottles are now a reality in the big cities of India. Too sad that we cannot see that the solution lies right below our feet - by adopting sustainable soil practices.
Organic manure application is the best approach to alleviate the deterioration of soil organic carbon, increasing fertility and water permeability.