World Soil Day - December 5th
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Discover the importance of soil diversity.
Uden, The Netherlands. Photo credit: Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash
At the museum we have a vast range of different interests, but one we all share is a love of nature and the environment. Some of the most amazing things ever discovered come direct from the natural world and there are still so many things we still don't fully understand.
One thing we're just starting to get to grips with is the importance of soil, and in particular the role it plays with regards to climate change.
Most of us know that trees are extremely important to life on Earth. They are, after all, oxygen generating machines. They are also massive stores of carbon and literally pluck carbon dioxide out of the air.
But what if I were to tell you there was a natural resource that is capable of storing more carbon than even the largest of forests? And that resource is literally under our feet - soil.
Video: Keep Soil Alive, Protect Soil Diversity from fao.org
It is estimated that amazingly only 1% of soil microorganism species have been discovered compared to over 80% of plant species. So if you're in the cryptozoology game you should also be in the soil game.
Not only that, but it has come to light recently that plant roots have a symbiotic relationship with micro-fungus that lives in the soil that helps plants find nutrients more efficiently. You can think of it as an underground telecoms network. The fungus tells the plant where nutrients are and the plant then sends its roots in that direction. The fungus, in return, get to share in the feast.
The problem with traditional agriculture and horticulture, is that we like to dig and plow the soil before sowing or planting. This digging process destroys the fungal network and ultimately hinders plant growth. Digging also destroys other species that live in the soil, species that help to take carbon out of the atmosphere and lock it down within the soil itself.
By adopting growing methods that do as little damage to the structure of the soil as possible we are simultaneously helping the environment, giving crops the best chance, and protecting those 99% of species we're yet to discover.
The good news is we don't have to wait for governments to do something about it, every one of us can start to effect change straight away. All we have to do is be willing to adopt a different way of looking at soil.
If you have a garden, an allotment, or other growing space you can begin by simply stopping digging and adopting a no dig or no till approach to growing.
Charles Dowding, the father of modern 'no dig' gardening, explains what it is in 3-minutes.
You can find out more about no dig on Charles' website and YouTube channel.
You can also find out more about World Soil Day on the UN's website. And, if you want to do your bit in the fight against climate change visit the Plant Britain website.