Compost, Fungi, Rehabilitation, Salination, Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Structure — by Rob Avis
What is the difference between soil and dirt?
Soil is alive. Dirt is dead. A single teaspoon of soil can contain billions of microscopic bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. A handful of the same soil will contain numerous earthworms, arthropods, and other visible crawling creatures. Healthy soil is a complex community of life and actually supports the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet.
Modern soil science is demonstrating that these billions of living organisms are continuously at work, creating soil structure, producing nutrients and building defence systems against disease. In fact, it has been shown that the health of the soil community is key to the health of our plants, our food and our bodies.
Why is it then, that much of the food from the conventional agricultural system is grown in dirt? The plants grown in this lifeless soil are dependent on fertilizer and biocide inputs, chemicals which further destroy water quality, soil health and nutritional content.
How did we get here? How do we turn this around? This is the Story of Soil….
Turning and Ploughing Soil
It all started about 10,000 years ago when humans started ploughing the fields in the experiment called agriculture. The settlers noticed that when they ploughed the field their crops would grow faster. Based on this positive feedback it was concluded that ploughing must be constructive and more fields were turned. However, in actual fact the bacteria, fungi and arthropods in the soil are essentially nutrient locked up in biology. For example, bacteria is almost 90% nitrogen. Ploughing the soil was killing the life in the soil resulting in an unregulated jolt of nutrient available to the surrounding plants. Over time, with the death of all soil microbes, the soil is unable to naturally support life and the farmer had to move to more fertile ground. The agricultural pattern emerged: deforest, plough, irrigate, salinate, desertify, move on.