It’s World Soil Day and whether you’re a farmer or not, there are three simple steps that every South African can take to boost the health of the nation’s soils and help fight climate change.
Cranfield University in Britain estimates that there are 1 500 gigatonnes of carbon in the world’s soil. This is three times more than the carbon in vegetation and forests. Deforestation, global warming and poor agricultural practices can lead to the release of soil carbon into the atmosphere, and in turn speed up the climate warming process.
The three simple steps the public can take to prevent local soil degradation are:
Remove patio slabs and crazy paving to help soils absorb water in heavy rainfall. This will slow the flow into drains, and particularly help to prevent flash floods, which will be crucial in cities as climate change leads to increased intense rainfall.
Plant cover crops instead of leaving soil bare. Cover crops or ‘green manure’ are popular with allotment holders and farmers, and add carbon and nutrients to the soil naturally, reducing the need for artificial fertilisers.
Don’t use peat-based compost. The intensive mining of peat bogs has a detrimental impact on the climate and local ecosystems. If you have the space, start your own compost heap, rather than buying compost or disposing of your food and garden waste in your green-waste bin.
Dr Jacqueline Hannam, president-elect of the British Society of Soil Science and senior research fellow in soil science at Cranfield, said, “We all use soil, whether we realise it or not, on a daily basis. Whether it’s the food we eat, playing football on a school playing field, enjoying the local park or gardening for pleasure.”
Soil plays a vital role in feeding the world, protecting our environment and supporting our economy, Hannam adds.
“Soil degradation has a huge impact on our personal lives and disrupts our understanding of the environment, even in urban areas. That’s why we are encouraging everyone to appreciate the critical role soil plays in our lives by taking some simple steps to help protect soils, our environment and ultimately society.”