With the rise in popularity of no-till farming systems and cover cropping, British growers are focused now more than ever on improving their soils.
Healthy soils not only boost yields and improve the land’s tolerance to flooding or drought, they can also benefit the environment by capturing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
To mark World Soils Day (5 December), here are 10 eye-opening facts about soil that highlight just how important it is to sustaining life.
1. It takes a minimum of 500 years to produce just under an inch of topsoil, this is the most productive layer of soil.
2. Soil can greatly reduce the of risk flooding as it can store up to 9,200t of water per acre.
3. About 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in soil.
4. Healthy soils consist of about 45% minerals, 25% water, 25% air and 5% organic matter.
5. There are more microorganisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people living on Earth.
6. The total living matter in a hectare of soil can weigh up to 22t.
See also: How to measure soil health and vitality
7. About 1,400,000 earthworms can be found in just one acre of farmland.
8. 95% of all food is either directly or indirectly produced from soil.
See also: 7 ways growers can improve soil health
9. 33% of our global soils are now classed as degraded.
10. 68% of European soils are used for arable farming – that’s compared with 83% in North and Central America and 85% in Asia.
More information on soils
- See all the latest Farmers Weekly news and in-depth articles focused on soil
- Take Farmers Weekly’s Academy course on soil management and earn CPD points
- Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has published a “Valuing Your Soils” guide offering best practice guidelines and tips to improve soils
- “7 ways to save your soils” by the Soil Association outlines action needed to reverse soil degradation
- AHDB has several practical resources on soils available to download for free