The Living Soil Essay

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Maintaining a healthy soil demands care and effort from farmers because farming is not benign.

By definition, farming disturbs the natural soil processes including that of nutrient cycling - the release and uptake of nutrients.

Some things live in the soil for their entire lives, and others live there for just a part of their lives. Things living in the soil depend on each other and on non-living soil components like organic matter and minerals to survive. For example, a soil that has lots of pore spaces for water and air usually supports more life than one consisting of hard clods.

There are billions of microorganisms living in the soil too, but they are too small for us to see. This interdependence and transfer of food energy is called a soil food web. Temperature and rainfall also influence the types of plants and animals that live in the soil.

Other native areas like tussock grasslands, alpine shrublands and coastal areas will have their own soil ecosystems.

Anywhere there is soil, there will be a soil habitat.

We even create soil habitats by building compost systems.

A spadeful of soil and food scraps or grass clippings added to an empty bin soon becomes home to insects, earthworms and microscopic creatures.

It maintains surface residues, roots and soil organic matter, helps control weeds, and enhances soil aggregation and intact large pores, in turn allowing water infiltration and reducing runoff and erosion.

In addition to making plant nutrients available, the diverse soil organisms that thrive in such conditions contribute to pest control and other vital ecological processes.


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