World Soil Day - Where's our food gone?
by Shweta Thakur on Dec 07, 2022
It's World Soil Day and we think it's important to take a look at one of the most valuable resources we have today - our soil. So let's get to know a little more about it.
A full 90% of the Earth’s precious topsoil is likely to be at risk by 2050, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO. Some headlines have written that the top soil is not going to last longer than 60 years - with different erosion rates for different geographies. This is scary. So let's understand what is the problem if we lose the top soil?
- 95% food is grown in top soil - This means that if we lose top soil, we lose our ability to farm and grow our own food. This affects all of us - irrespective of ours dietary choices since all animal agriculture is dependent on corn & soy. So, we ALL go hungry.
- Rate of Erosion faster than rate of replenishment - As per FAO, we lose 1 soccer field worth of top soil every 5 seconds - something that takes thousands of years to create just a few cms worth. This means, that we cannot possibly create enough top soil to feed all of us again in our lifetime.
- Lower Nutrition - A poor soil quality means poor nutrition in the soil & thereby the plants. Hence, whatever food we have, will continue to deplete in its nutritional value - thereby having large scale health impact.
- Climate Change - Top soil also absorbs carbon, filters water when it enters the ground water system. It greatly reduces flood risk by storing up to 9200 tonnes of water per acre. All this is lost once the soil is lost.
- Political Impact - We are all very familiar with food insecurity bringing down economies. When the supply starts getting short, we will face large scale price rise. This will disrupt economies and bring countries down to nothing. Think Libya, Sri Lanka!
The next logical question here is to understand WHY is this erosion happening at such a fast pace today?
- Deforesation - 1 football field of Amazon rainforests are being cut for animal agriculture & palm oil - thereby destroying years of solid root systems. Once the roots are removed, top soil is easily washed away by water & blown by the wind.
- Crop burning - We are aware of such farming practises. But such large level crop burning burns out the organic matter in soil as well. Infact, large scale forest fires are also having similar results.
- Modern Farming Practises
- Monocropping - Due to large scale consumption of corn & soy in animal agriculture, lot of farms convert to mono-cropping - thereby stripping the top soil of nutrients.
- Fertilisers & Pesticides - All the chemicals kill the natural organic matter and eventually strip it off all nutrition.
- Over-tilling - Tilling creates loose top soil prone to erosion. While its a required practise, overdoing it for faster production is killing the soil.
So it's fairly clear that top soil erosion needs to be fighting for its spot in the top 5 issues we need to handle as a race. But those 5 spots are already so busy. So what can we do as individuals to contribute to the solution?
- Switch to organics - Support farmers who are cutting out the chemicals from the soil & increasing its shelf life. Because these are the farmers who will feed us for longer.
- Eat seasonal & local - Give local foods a shot. It is not just better for the soil since no unnatural practises are used - but also more nutritious.
- Support Restorative Farming - A lot of our partners are working in the restorative farming space - Varanasi Farms, Black Baza, Rimpocha & more. Only organic farming isn't enough anymore. We need to start restoring the damage done to our soils.
- Visit an organic farm - It is important we get to know where our food comes from. An organic farm visit helps us learn about our food and become more mindful in our consumption. And who doesn't like connecting with Mother Earth? Connect with us for a visit to one of our farms.
- Compost - Create more organic matter - in your own setup. Help generate more brown gold. Share it with people around you. Cut out the use of chemical based growth support.
- Grow your veggies - This is one of the most satisfying practises you can consider adopting - growing your food. Nothing gives more calm than this :) We aren't saying you will be able to feed your locality, but let's have greener terraces?
- Opt for soil-less farming - Consider eating hydroponic/soil-less produce. Nutrition gets better since it is artificially regulated. It reduces the pressure on the current soil system - so it can focus on growing other, more key stuff.
- Plant Trees - Yes ofcourse! You want to save the soil, don't miss an opportunity to plant some trees.
At Wildermart, we are very conscious of where our food comes from. We source our organics from local Farmer Producer Organisations. This helps us get you local, freshly produced, sustainably farmed food. It also enables us to get a large variety and support many farmer families. Try our organics. They aren't expensive, they taste better and they are packed in compostable packaging. We also have a zero waste subscription. Ask about it!