World Soil Day

Soil is a critical component of the natural system and a vital contributor to human well being. For this reason, The United Nations General Assembly declared December 5th to be World Soil Day; a day to celebrate soil and raise global awareness of the importance of soil. It is observed this day each year to honor the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. He was the world’s longest reigning monarch, and was a leader in sustainable land resource management. He worked to promote soil science and conservation throughout his life until his death in 2016.

Organizations in countries around the world work together to promote world soil day and the specific goals of the movement. In the United States, this includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as smaller, local groups that promote soil health and sustainable farming.

Why is Soil so Important?
Well, for one thing, the health of the soil that our food is grown in is directly related to the nutrient levels in the food. Better soil grows better food, and only organic soil can grow organic food. Healthy soil contains living and nonliving organic matter and a variety of minerals that help to feed plants. One of the most important things in soil is organic carbon. The levels of this element in the soil can be directly linked to farm productivity, as carbon in soil helps to store water and nutrients so that plans can easily access them.

Soil is a very complex, symbiotic material. This means that the insects, microbes, fungi, and bacteria all live and work together. Soil is a living thing! It’s much more than just dirt. It’s said that one handful of soil contains more living organisms than the total  number of humans.

How Can We Help?
There are many ways that humans can help improve soil health and maintain the health of the soil we already have. Here are a few simple ways to take care of the soil on your own property.

  • Plant more plants. Increase the amount of ground cover (grass and such) on your property. These plans hold in water and add nutrients to the ground. Aim to have 100% ground cover, 100% of the time.
  • Add organic matter to the soil. Save your fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells and compost them. You can also add these things directly to garden beds and let them compost over time.
  • Don’t add chemicals to the soil. If needed, use only organic fertilizers. Avoid insecticides and herbicides, and try not to add any inorganic material to your soil, such as plastics, pants, or soaps.

You can read more about World Soil Day and the Global Soil Partnership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN on their website, or visit the FAO on Facebook to stay up to date with their message.