Reinvesting in soil – one of our greatest assets!
All our natural resources – water, oil, soil, etc. – are limited. And yet we treat them like they are endless. We are often unaware that everything we take for granted in our lives has its origin in nature – our medicine, our clothes, our food, our fuel, etc. We now live in a time where all the various natural resources our planet provides us with are greatly threatened. We endlessly withdraw natures’ resources with little reinvestment and now we are overdrawn and in debt.
One clear example is the continued loss of soil fertility by the establishment of monoculture. Monoculture is the practice of using the same field to grow the same crop repeatedly. This approach sucks all the nutrients out of the soil and creates a dependency on expensive fertilisers that further damage important life living in the soil, resulting in increased soil infertility. These monoculture practices also deplete the biodiversity, the different kinds of life in an environment. This leaves fields more vulnerable to being attacked by pests as there are no predators around to naturally control the pest population. As a result, farmers also become dependent on pesticides, which damage the soil further by destroying microorganisms beneficial to soil health.
Planning ahead and sustainably managing your land can improve soil fertility over time. Permaculture has many strategies you can use to bring back life to your soil. An immediate way to improve soil fertility is through mulching: by placing a thick layer of organic material on top of the soil in between crops, the organic material’s nutrients feeds the soil, the soil retains more moisture and important microorganisms are protected from the heat of the sun.
Increasing biodiversity by planting various crops in the same field encourages the diversity of soil microorganisms, increasing soil fertility. This also helps to create a well-balanced environment where various pest populations are kept in check by the presence of predators. Our government recognised the problems we are having with the health of our land when they said: ‘The soil is our greatest asset, help preserve it’.
Did you know that, on average, only the top 30cm of soil is fertile enough to grow anything in? It is the microorganisms and organic matter in that soil that makes it fertile. By preserving and improving soil health, the soil returns the investment by providing us with fertile land – on which we can feed, clothe, research new medicines, find new forms of energy – for our future generations.