10 soil facts
Our soils are incredible!
They give us life, grow our food, and provide a home for billions of organisms.
As the Soil Association, it's no surprise that we think soil is pretty amazing!
Learn our 10 favourite facts about this incredible resource and start sharing the reasons why soil is so amazing with friends and family:
- Healthy soils have six different layers (known as horizons) - beginning with top and organic matter (like plant and animal residues), and ending with bedrock.
- Soils are home to a quarter of the Earth's species! From the familiar earthworms, to the lesser-known tardigrade and many undiscovered species - learn more about the unsung heroes living right under our feet.
- One gram of soil (a quarter of a tablespoon) can harbour up to 10 billion organisms - that's more than the number of people living on the planet!
- Only about 1% of the microorganisms found in soil have been identified so far - our soils are one of the largest reservoirs of microbial diversity on Earth; this includes many single-celled organisms, such as bacteria and archaea, as well as certain fungi too. There's so much about the organisms that live in our soils that we still don't understand, and many think that further research could lead to important developments in agricultural, medical and climate sciences.
- 95% of food production relies on the soil – healthy topsoil is vital to our existence on this planet, but we are losing topsoil at an alarming rate - between 10 and 40 times faster than it's formed.
- Soils store more carbon than the atmosphere, and all of the world’s plants and forests combined, which means that soil is one of our most important weapons in the fight against climate change! Did you know that the UK's soil alone holds nearly 10 billion tonnes of carbon?! That's equivalent to the total global emissions created by the human population in one year!
- Healthy soil can help to prevent floods and mitigate the effects of drought - soils can store one and a half Olympic swimming pools full of water per hectare. In total, the UK's soils store around 130 trillion litres of water - more than all UK lakes and rivers combined!
- Earthworms are a real hero of healthy soils - Earthworms do amazing work in soils! Their activity offers many benefits, from increased nutrient availability and better drainage, to creating a more stable soil structure. You can find more earthworms in the soils on organic farms.
- Every minute we lose the equivalent of 30 football pitches of fertile soil. When we don’t look after it, soil can lose its ability to support plant growth, become contaminated or erode away, and it can take up to 1,000 thousand years for a single centimetre of topsoil to form. Here are 5 things all of us can do to help keep our soil healthy
- Organic farms have 20% more organic matter in their soil on average. Organic farmers make soil health a key priority on their farms, building fertility naturally through the use of compost, crop rotation and nitrogen-fixing crops. Organic farmers use, on average, 65% more compost on their farms! Organic matter is really important for building healthy, fertile soils, and helping the soil to hold and store water.
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