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Today is World Soil Day.
Healthy soils are fundamental to humanity, producing 95% of the world’s food and storing about 2,500 gigatons of carbon. That’s more than three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and four times the amount stored in all living plants and animals.
Healthy soils produce healthy crops that in turn nourish people and animals, with soil quality directly linked to food quality and quantity. A typically healthy soil may include a variety of earthworms, 20-30 types of small arachnids, 50-100 species of insects, hundreds of different fungi and thousands of bacteria species. Healthy soils therefore support a huge range of biodiversity as well as being an important carbon store.
Soil degradation describes what happens when the quality of soil declines and diminishes its capacity to support life, with the soil losing certain physical, chemical or biological qualities. While soil degradation is a natural process, it can also be caused by, and accelerated by, human activity.
In the last few decades, soil degradation has been exacerbated by intensive farming practices like deforestation, overgrazing, intensive cultivation, monocultures and burning. These actions disturb soil and leave it vulnerable to erosion, which damages the complex systems underneath.
A third of soils globally are classed as degraded, and we need to start valuing our soils and restoring them to good health.
This is one of the central tenets of the regenerative agriculture movement – simply making agriculture ‘sustainable’ is no longer enough and we need to reverse the damage caused by historic agricultural practices and regenerate and improve soils. Soil formation is a slow process: it can take up to a thousand years to produce just 2-3 cm of soil. Therefore regenerating and improving our existing soils is critical if we are to meet our food, climate and environmental targets.
This is at the core of our agricultural philosophy at Climate Asset Management: healthy food from healthy soils with positive climate and biodiversity impacts at scale.