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Good Resolutions for Healthier Soils

January 16, 2019 by Jessica Fitch

With only 12 years left to combat climate change before it impacts our Earth, ecosystems and way of life irreparably – according to the UN[1] – the new year seems like a good time to propose some resolutions for increasing the carbon sequestration capacity of our soils.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),

  • soil can hold 3 times as much carbon as the atmosphere;
  • 95% of our food comes from soil; and
  • today, 33% of the world’s soils are in a degraded state.

Organic matter is the lifeblood of healthy, fertile and productive soil, storing more carbon in soils than plants and the atmosphere combined. It also helps plants to grow and improves water retention and soil structure.

It is estimated that 90% of agriculture’s future climate change mitigation potential is based solely on soil carbon sequestration.[2] An increase of just 0.4% of organic matter in the top layers of soils across the world could stop the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere in its tracks, helping to stabilise the climate while ensuring future food security.[3]

With this in mind, ECOFI would like to share a few good resolutions for increasing organic matter in agricultural soils in 2019 and beyond.

  1. Use organic fertilizers and soil improvers

– Processed organic fertilizers and soil improvers increase organic matter content of soils in a form which can be transported economically and applied safely.

– Combining the use of organic fertilizers with mineral fertilizers has been proven to achieve the highest crop yields for farmers.

  1. Use organo-mineral fertilizers

– An organic coating around mineral inputs gives organo-mineral fertilizers controlled-release properties, thereby increasing organic matter in the soil while simultaneously delivering essential nutrients to plants gradually.

– Organo-mineral fertilizers can be used to help bring degraded soils back to health and restore their organic matter content.

  1. Grow cover and perennial crops to avoid leaving soil bare

– Increased vegetation cover enhances photosynthesis, while the carbon stored in decomposed roots and leaves will increase organic matter in the soil and improve its structure.

  1. Improve the regulatory context for organic-based fertilizers to enable all farmers to access them

– The recent agreement on the new EU Fertilizing Products regulation will give some organic-based fertilizers access to the EU Single Market for the first time, thereby making them available to many more farmers.

– However, there are still issues within the regulation which can be further improved to ensure an innovation-friendly regulatory framework that is fit for a wide, constantly evolving range of organic-based fertilizers able to boost organic matter in soils.

– Use the EU regulation to set an example for other markets across the globe.

So, let’s get 2019 off to a positive start by putting these resolutions into practice and combining our efforts to improve the soil as a proactive way of furthering the fight against climate change and its adverse effects on our agriculture, food systems and environment.

 

[1] http://www.un.org/en/climatechange/

[2] International Fertilizer Association, ‘Integrated Plant Nutrient Management’, 2018

[3] 4 per 1000 initiative, https://www.4p1000.org/