December 5 is World Soil Day, a day to acknowledge the vital role soil plays in food production. And the timing of World Soil Day is apparent, as we wind down from last week’s Thanksgiving feasts.
This year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) theme is “Stop soil erosion, Save our future.” The FAO hopes “to raise awareness on the importance of sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the increasing challenges in soil management, and raise the profile of healthy soil by encouraging governments, organizations, communities and individuals around the world to engage in proactively improving soil health.”
Locally, the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) encourages landowners to improve soil health by incorporating the 4R Nutrient Stewardship for fertilizer best management practices. Simply put, this means applying the right nutrient source, at the right rate, time and place. We also encourage the use of conservation practices that protect our fertile soils from erosion, such as no-till or strip-till planting and cover crop installation.
We’ve been reflecting on the past decades of the Delaware SWCD’s efforts, as we celebrate our 75th anniversary. The main impetus in the creation of soil and water conservation districts was the catastrophic effects of the Dust Bowl. In May 1934, a huge dust storm began in the Great Plains and swept all the way to the Eastern Seaboard. The storm blacked out the sky and left a dust film on everything – including the U.S. Capitol. The Great Plains area had experienced many dust storms, severely eroding soils and lost crops for years, and politicians in Washington finally took note, passing (and President Franklin Roosevelt signing), the Soil Conservation Act of 1935.
A few years later, and with the cloud of War World II looming, the Ohio 94th General Assembly passed a bill, later referred to as the “Ohio Soil Conservation District Enabling Act.” This action enabled the creation of our local soil and water conservation districts. A paradigm shift occurred with these policymakers, whereby natural resources (including soil) were looked upon as an asset to be conserved, rather than burned out to the point of uselessness/destruction.
Further, the agricultural sector was pressured to increase food production as World War II continued. And nutrient-rich soils were (and are) the backbone of quality food production. The fledgling SWCDs led the way, educating landowners regarding the importance of protecting soil from erosion and maintaining soil health.
It takes 100 to 1,000 years to build an inch of topsoil. And here’s a sobering statistic — the world lost one-third of arable farmland due to pollution and soil erosion over the past 40 years. Take a minute as you binge on holiday bounty, acknowledge the importance of this precious resource, and never treat soil like dirt!
For more information regarding the Delaware SWCD, please visit us at: soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.
Kim Marshall is the communication specialist for the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us.