It certainly seems like there is a day for everything. In case you wondered, today is National Cotton Candy Day, Tuesday is National Pastry Day, and Dec. 21, is National Flashlight Day. One day you may have missed this past Friday was World Soil Day, a day to highlight the importance of soils in our lives. While that may seem a bit weird, the purpose is to call attention to the vital role soils play in our lives since we tend to either take soil for granted or simply not consider soil at all. So why does soil matter enough to merit its own World Day?
• The most obvious fact is soil is the most efficient, productive method to produce crops and livestock. Our country is blessed with some of the most productive farm and pasture land in the world, combined with a good climate. However, continued attention needs focused on preventing/reversing soil degradation and improving soil properties while feeding the world.
• Soils serve as filters for precipitation and for waste waters. Just think of your septic system if you live in the country. Soil in proper condition absorbs rainfall and prevents flooding. They store water and nutrients for crop growth.
• The soil supports where you live, shop, and play. It provides materials for bricks, concrete, glass, ceramics, even kitty litter and the list goes on. Remember early pioneers in Kansas lived in sod huts.
• The first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered by Fleming after dust blew into a petri dish in his lab. Around eighty percent of today’s antibiotics come from soil microorganisms. As Dr. Chuck Rice of K-State Agronomy has pointed out, cancer treatment drugs have come from soil.
• Microorganisms in soil break down organic matter whether it’s garbage or crop residues and recycle nutrients. Also, consider the mountain of garbage we would have without this recycling.
• Soil serves as a habitat and environment for an astounding diversity of plants and animals. It is likely there are thousands of species yet to be discovered.
• The phrase “Older than dirt” really is true since under ideal conditions it takes hundreds of years to form an inch of top soil. This reinforces the need to protect soils since every inch of top soil lost won’t be renewed in your children’s children’s children lifetimes.
• Finally, the first known taxes, over 4,000 years ago in China, were based on the color of your soil as it related to soil crop productivity.
Belated Happy World Soil Day.