USDA Observes Kick Off of the International Year of Soils

Adapted from a Press Release by Justin Fritscher, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The US Department of Agriculture released an article to announce the 2015 International Year of Soils. This designation comes from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization which spearheaded the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly. A world wide effort to highlight the importance of healthy soils for food security, ecosystem functions and resilient farms, ranches and urban areas.
There are four things we as humans cannot live with-out: Air, Sunlight, Water and Soil. According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, “Healthy soil is the foundation that ensures working farms and ranches become more productive, resilient to climate change and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century,”
As the population of the world increases, the agriculture land base shrinks, the climate changes and extreme weather events are evident, the nations of the world are focusing their collective attention to the primary resource essential to food production-the soil. A global effort is being launched in 2015 to provide an understanding of the importance of the role of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.
“Most people don’t realize that just beneath our feet lies a diverse, complex, life-giving ecosystem that sustains our entire existence,” said Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We are helping producers unlock the power of soil health as part of an important and very successful national campaign. Our campaign demonstrates our renewed commitment to soil conservation and soil health.”
While the focus of this resolution is on large scale rural farms and ranches, the urban homeowner will also benefit from information regarding conservation and soil improvement. Conservation efforts can adopted to improve and maintain healthy soil whether you have a small urban lot with only a few plants in the landscape around your home or several acres with large perennial beds, vegetable gardens, and/or fruit trees, all plants need healthy soil to sur-vive.
A few facts about the role of soil in our environment:

  • Topsoil is the most productive layer
  • Five tons of topsoil spread over an acre is only as thick as a dime
  • Soil supplies water and nutrients for plants
  • Most of our food comes from soil
  • Erosion of soil clogs rivers and lakes
  • Soil is extremely effective at wastewater treatment
  • Soil is alive with Organisms
  • Thousands of types of bacteria live in soil
  • 15 tons of soil per acre pass through earthworms each year
  • Supply organic matter back into soil
  • Mix the soil
  • Erosion control by holding soil in place

“International Year of Soils provides an opportunity for everyone to learn about the critical role soil conservation and improved soil health play in the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture,” Weller said.
Working with the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and other partners, NRCS will be showcasing the importance of soil with monthly themes created by SSSA:
January: Soils Sustain Life
February: Soils Support Urban Life
March: Soils Support Agriculture
April: Soils Clean and Capture Water
May: Soils Support Buildings/Infrastructure
June: Soils Support Recreation
July: Soils Are Living
August: Soils Support Health
September: Soils Protect the Natural Environment
October: Soils and Products We Use
November: Soils and Climate
December: Soils, Culture and People
Visit NRCS’s soil health or International Year of Soils

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