Soils protect plants from erosion and any other destructive physical, biological and chemical activity. Some experts say the number of years of top soil left on the planet is comparable to estimates for reserves of oil and natural gas. Soils and Their Environment. In the Lempira Sur region of Honduras, a FAO project developed the Quesungual slash and mulch agroforestry system to replace the age-old slash-and-burn method of farming, which had led to declining moisture and fertility. Soil type, quality and management vary across the landscape A healthy living soil Geologic events can rapidly bury soils (landslides, glacier advance, lake transgression), can cause removal or truncation of soils (rivers, shorelines) or can cause soil renewal with additions of slowly deposited sediment that add to the soil (wind or floodplain deposits). In contrast, steeply sloping areas in highlands may experience erosion and have thinner surface horizons. A quarter of the planet’s biological diversity exists in soil. The effect of human populations may have been to drain land for cultivation (affecting hydrology), to modify the landscape, build structures, and to remove native vegetation. As soil is formed it often has distinct layers, which are formally described as “horizons.” Upper horizons (labeled as the A and O horizons) are richer in organic material and so are important in plant growth, while deeper layers (such as the B and C horizons) retain more of the original features of the bedrock below. London: Oxford University Press. Worms, nematodes, termites, ants, gophers, moles, crayfish, etc. Below are some examples of the importance of soils in natural plant growth, in agriculture, and related societal issues. However, the rate of change is greater for soils in youthful stages of development. In turn, these plants produce vital needs for humans like food, clothing, furniture, medicine, etc. Soil plays a role in nearly all natural cycles on the earth’s surface. Soil-Plant Nutrient Cycle. It resulted in increased productivity and income for the region’s farmers. Poor farming practices - extensive tilling, removal of organic matter, excessive irrigation using poor quality water and overuse of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides - deplete soil nutrients faster than they are able to form, leading to loss of soil fertility and degrading soils. Sustainability within the soil supply is also crucial. It provides. Find out more about: soil and land management; Enhanced algae growth can thus disrupt normal functioning of the ecosystem and cause what are known as “dead zones” (see Figure Aquatic Dead Zones). In addition to fertilizers, Nitrogen inputs to watersheds can also include atmospheric deposition, livestock waste, and sewage, but nitrogen fertilizers comprise a significant majority of the input to monitored streams, particularly in springtime when much fertilizer is applied. The recent and continued withdrawal of critical chemical control measures has also rekindled interest in the role of soil management in the protection of crop health. With proper planning, this can simultaneously limit compaction, protect soil biota, reduce costs (if performed correctly), promote water infiltration, and help to prevent topsoil erosion (see below). The use of heavy equipment has many advantages in saving time and labor, but can cause compaction of soil and disruption of the natural soil biota. Modern versus Buried Soil Profiles. The type of parent material may also affect the rapidity of soil development. Although atmospheric nitrogen gas is abundant, the gas is neither reactive nor utilized by most plants. Deforestation due to logging, construction, or increased fire occurrences can also cause significant increases in soil erosion in many areas globally and may be a particular problem in developing countries. Farm animal waste and sewage also provide large amounts of reactive N and P. Phosphorus was formerly used heavily as an additive in laundry and dishwater detergents, but since the 1970’s it has been phased out in both through a combination of state and federal regulations. Ideal soil quality not only allows for the germination of plants but also prevents soil erosion, which in turn supports all kinds of land management activities such as farming, building, and so on. Source: NASA Earth Observatory via Wikimedia Commons and Lamiot via Wikimedia Commons. It can take hundreds to thousands of years to form one centimetre of soil from parent rock, but that centimetre of soil can be lost in a single year through erosion. The long-term sustainability of soil is vital to both human ecology, even in modern society, and the ecology of our natural surroundings. The soil hosts a big community of diverse organisms that improve the structure of the soil, recycle essential nutrients, helps to control weeds, plant pests and diseases. “As per the principles outlined in the World Soil Charter and supported by FAO, good soil governance requires actions at all levels, from governments to individuals in promoting sustainable soil management. In the northern hemisphere, south-facing slopes are exposed to more direct sunlight angles and are thus warmer and drier than north-facing slopes. In comparison to flat regions, areas with steep slopes overall have more soil erosion, more runoff of rainwater, and less water infiltration, all of which lead to more limited soil development in very hilly or mountainous areas. Oxygen generally serves as an electron acceptor and is required by roots of many plants. Long term health of native soil is in many cases improved by disturbing the soil less, growing a greater diversity of crops, maintaining living roots in the soil, and keeping the soil covered with residue. More poorly drained soils, in lowland, alluvial plains or upland depressions, tend more be more greyish, greenish-grey (gleyed), or dark colored, due to iron reduction (to Fe2+) and accumulation and preservation of organic matter in areas tending towards anoxic. In warm, tropical soils (Ultisols, Oxisols), other factors being equal, soils tend to be thicker, with extensive leaching and mineral alteration. Beneficial aspects to plants include providing physical support, heat, water, nutrients, and oxygen. Hydrophytic vegetation can handle anoxic conditions and is thus suitable to poorly drained soils in wetland areas. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Resource Conservation Service, Rodney Burton via Wikimedia Commons, and Jim Bain via Wikimedia Commons. In modern agricultural practices, heavy machinery is used to prepare the seedbed, for planting, to control weeds, and to harvest the crop. Soil Profile. Sustainable Development Goals in the most effective man-ner. Elemental nutrients, dissolved in soil water solution, are derived from soil minerals and organic material (see Figure Soil-Plant Nutrient Cycle). The decision and succession of versatile harvests or … Role of Beneficial Soil Microbes in Sustainable Agriculture and. Removal of the natural cover of vegetation enhances erosion since plant foliage tends to buffer the intensity of rainfall and roots hold soil together and prevent breakup and erosion. Micronutrients include iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), chlorine (Cl), zinc (Zn), and copper (Cu). Over large areas of farmland, this has the unintended consequence of releasing more carbon and nitrous oxides (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming effects. To do this, we need to remember that soil contains living organisms that when provided the basic necessities of life - food, shelter, and water - perform functions required to produce food and fiber. There are literally billions of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoans in the soil, as well as thousands of insects, mites and worms. For instance, overgrazing and rapid deforestation of the land, and generally poor land management, can lower the organic matter content of surface soils, thus lowering fertility and increasing the likelihood of topsoil erosion due to removal of the protective vegetative covering. Heat, light, and oxygen are also obtained by the atmosphere, but the roots of many plants also require oxygen. Thus, to maintain soil health, one needs to understand the chemical, biological, and physical processes that operate in the natural soil profile. Tillage of fields does help to break up clods that were previously compacted, so best practices may vary at sites with different soil textures and composition. Birkeland, P.W. remain diverse and produce everything it needs for the ecology to remain in balance A modern soil profile (Alfisol) occurs near the land surface. Soil is important to our society as it provides the foundation for most of the critical aspects of civilization. 1. Hassett, J.J. & Banwart, W.L. Grasses release organic matter to soils that is more rich in base cations, whereas leaf and needle litter result in release of acids into the soil. Global issues comprise concerns about GHG mitigation, climate change, and renewable energy, while the location-specific issues are soil erosion, water management, soil quality, and air and water pollution. Moderate age soils (roughly 10,000 to 500,000 years old) are slowing in profile development and deepening, and may begin to approach equilibrium conditions. Managing soil organic carbon (SOC) is of the greatest importance as soil organic matter is directly related to numerous soil properties that are relevant to ecosystem functioning . Plant life provides much organic matter to soil and helps to recycle nutrients with uptake by roots in the subsurface. Production is ultimately limited by soil type, climate, hydrology, and land management. 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