Thursday, March 7, 2013

Victoria's Green Matters - 7th March 2013

Deal With IT's Secretary Victoria Nicholls writes a regular column in the East Kent Mercury

It is difficult to overstate the importance of soil. Some people will look upon it as 'dirt' - something to wash away quickly, something of no worth at all. If you are a gardener, and, particularly if you grow your own vegetables, you will value your soil very highly indeed.

Over 90% of our food depends on soil for its production. While this is obviously vital for our survival, it is not the only function for which soil is responsible; it is a great repository for carbon dioxide. Researchers have estimated that in the UK alone, the soil stores more carbon dioxide than all the trees in the forests of Europe. Soil also has great capacity to store water, vital for food productivity, particularly in times of water shortage.

Farming, of course, can harm soil. Consistent ploughing over generations exposes soil to the air and breaks down soil structure, making it vulnerable to erosion and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Around the world different techniques have started to be employed to deal with these effects. In the USA, farmers have realised what a valuable commodity soil is and have reduced ploughing, cutting erosion and reducing tractor fuel costs. In Kenya, a dramatic improvement in soil quality was achieved with a combination of compost, manure, mulch and crop rotation.

Focussing on soil quality means a threefold advantage: the land is more able to withstand any changes in climate, more food is produced and the soil absorbs more carbon dioxide.

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