Soil is responsible for nearly all life on the planet, but rarely gets the respect it deserves. On Dec. 5, this living and life-giving resource is finally getting its day—across the state and across the globe.
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization is launching the International Year of Soil on World Soil Day (Dec. 5) to raise awareness of the importance of healthy soils for food security, ecosystem functions and resilient farms.
The global focus on soil is being amplified across Iowa through countless local soil health education and soil best practices field days across the state. The state's water quality initiative and the soil health educational campaign, "Unlock the Secrets in the Soil" have expanded their reach from last year.
Improving Iowa's soil health has broad implications for farms
"We work every day in every county to conserve and protect this vital resource," says Jay Mar, state conservationist with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa. "So to us, every day is 'soil health day'." Mar says improving Iowa's soil health has broad implications related to the vitality of farms, the health of our planet and our ability to feed more than 9 billion people who will be living on Earth by the year 2050.
"Farmers know that keeping our soil healthy helps prevent erosion and protects water quality, and improves productivity," adds Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. "The state has increased focus on water quality in the past few years, with many local workshops and field days including a soil health component, knowing that one by-product of healthy soils is cleaner water."
Mar says that while improving soil health has enormous benefits, it also has its challenges. "We know that every farm is different and has its own set of unique resource issues," he says. "This is why the conservation planning process is so important to identify the best conservation alternatives to match each unique situation."
Year-long salute to soil underscores need to focus on its health
Northey notes, "Fortunately, Iowa's farmers are innovative and NRCS and the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship is committed to assist these soil health pioneers in making their farms more productive, resilient and profitable along the way."
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the basics, benefits and promise of improving soil health can visit www.nrcs.usda.gov to "Unlock the Secrets in the Soil."
World Soil day celebrates the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to the human commonwealth through its contribution to food, water and energy security and as a mitigator of biodiversity loss and climate change. It is celebrated by the global community of 60,000 soil scientists who communicate soil knowledge for the common good. It is held on December 5 because it corresponds with the official birthday of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who has officially sanctioned the event.