What is “healthy” soil?
Soil is a critical part of the ecosystem. Located in the uppermost layer where plants grow, it hosts 25% of the world’s biological biodiversity, and stores around two times the carbon found in the atmosphere and three times the amount found in vegetation. Soil also directly or indirectly produces about 95% of our food.
Healthy, well-functioning soil has a porous structure and a good capacity for receiving and storing water. Healthy soil also has rich organic content and enables plant growth and high nutrient uptake by plants. All in all, these characteristics lead to greater protection against runoff, reduced nutrient losses, higher yields, and better resilience in times of drought or excessive rainfall.
On the other hand, if soil lacks any of the above functions, the risk of erosion and the leaching of nutrients and sediments to nearby water bodies increases. However, by implementing the practices listed below, soil degradation can be mitigated—and compromised soil can even recover. An important key to success when implementing these practices is for farmers to familiarize themselves with the unique properties of their soil, including variations across different plots.