ngumbi3_FLORENT VERGNESAFP via Getty Images_soilafricafarm Florent Vergnes/AFP via Getty Images

Putting a Price on Soil

Soils are strategic assets that underpin agriculture, farm productivity, and national economies, yet they are suffering widespread damage, erosion, drying, and degradation. It is high time we reversed this trend, but how do we get more people to care about soils?

URBANA, ILLINOIS – On December 5, the world marked World Soil Day. The theme this year, “Stop Soil Erosion, Save our Future,” was chosen to raise awareness of the damage being done to soils around the world and start the process of reversing this trend. But how do we get more people to care about soil?

There is no doubt that they should. The importance of soil to human civilization cannot be overestimated – it is present in everything we touch. Healthy soil underpins agriculture, farm productivity, and national economies. It grows healthy food, reduces nutrient losses to waterways, reduces greenhouse-gas emissions, increases carbon sequestration, and strengthens biodiversity, all while enabling crops to cope with the changing climate. As such, soil should be viewed as a natural, national, and strategic asset that must be managed wisely.

Yet around the world, soils are being eroded, dried out, and degraded, owing to poor land use and intensive agricultural practices that deplete soil nutrients. Other factors contributing to poor soil health and erosion include deforestation, excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers, and overgrazing. Ultimately, these practices literally mine the life out of soils.

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