2015 has been named the “International Year of Soil” (IYS) and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) has developed activities to support educational outreach, assigning a theme for each month of the year. March’s theme is “Soils Support Agriculture”. Soil is the source of the nutrients that human bodies require; we acquire these nutrients indirectly by eating plants which have gotten the vitamins and minerals from the soil, or by eating animals who eat plants.
Calcium is a great, concrete example; our bodies require calcium for a strong skeletal system, while plants require calcium for cell division, healthy leaves and stems and it assists with acquisition of more nutrients. Normally when people think of where to get their daily dosage of calcium they turn to dairy products, however, cows (and other dairy industry mammals) get their calcium from eating plants which get it from the soil.
While soils have a vast reserve of nutrients, when they are continually used to grow food these nutrients become depleted. Nutrient content can be replenished with compost, manure, plant waste or fertilizer, but sometimes it is best to rotate fields and allow fallow areas to exist and naturally restore themselves. Farmers and growers can collect soil samples and have them analyzed at a laboratory to determine exactly which vitamins and minerals are lacking in their soils and customize their inputs based on the results.
The driving message of March’s theme is that directly or indirectly all of our nutrients come from the soil, so taking care of the soil ensures our quality of life.