• Kate Quigley

The Beauty of Soil

Who would have thought what lay right beneath our feet holds so much importance? Earth can be defined as “the substance of the land surface; soil.” Soil is essential for the growth of plants, and life as we know it. And yes, there is such a thing as good and bad soil. 

Unhealthy, ‘bad soil’ can be described as dirt, void of nutrients that support life, and damaged by aggressive agricultural practices. Tilling, overgrazing, and soil erosion are major factors that cause desertification. This is when fertile land becomes dry like a desert and loses productivity. Increased tilling and jabbing at our precious earth does more harm than good. When plants are exposed to intensive grazing and tilling with no break, soil erosion is accelerated and nutrients are lost. What was once fertile becomes barren, and the eroded soil can not grow plants and crops. Furthermore, as dirt runs off, polluting our rivers and streams, sedimentation piles up acting as a barrier and disrupting the river's constant flow. For millennia, humans have depended on agricultural food production to sustain us. Life cannot grow from dirt, but it can thrive from healthy soil. 

Healthy, ‘good soil’ consists of billions upon billions of soil microorganisms. These microorganisms help plants absorb, normally unavailable, nutrients by converting the nutrients into something the plant can use. In return, the microorganisms live healthy and happily underground. Good soil traps nitrogen from the atmosphere and creates a nitrogen-rich environment, leading to an abundance of plants and biodiversity. Leafy green plants and soil alike sequester carbon from our atmosphere, acting as a carbon sink, which helps mitigate climate change. The greater variety of plants in a given area not only lengthens the growing season but also benefits the soil, by providing a polyculture to diversify our ecosystems. Jobs, ranging from farmers to commercial truck drivers, all depend on healthy soil to make a living. Healthy soil--storing carbon and other greenhouse gasses that cause warming temperatures--equates to a healthy planet.

Soil is much more powerful than we think. It gives life to beautiful plants and flowers and supports the food we depend on. But behind the scenes, soil is an essential player in the fight against climate change as it helps regulate temperature and store harmful greenhouse gases. So, cherish the earth beneath your feet, and revel in getting dirty!

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