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10 things you should know about soil

An illustration showing the texture and composition of soil.

This illustration is excerpted from ‘Farm Anatomy’ by Julia Rothman.

When is the last time you took a moment to think about dirt? If you’re a gardener, you probably consider the health of your soil more than most people, as you understand that healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production. It is estimated that 95 per cent of our food comes from our soils – but despite their crucial role, many of us take the ground for granted.

In an effort to spread awareness, the United Nations has designated 2015 the International Year of Soils. There is much to know about soil and its role in our survival and health. Below are 10 things you might not know about dirt:

  1. Natural processes can take more than 500 years to form one inch of topsoil
  2. Soil is made up of about 45% minerals, 25% water, 25% air and 5% organic matter
  3. Soils modify the atmosphere by emitting and absorbing dust and gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor
  4. Healthy soil has an amazing capacity to retain water– every 1% increase in organic matter results in as much as 25,000 gallons of available soil water per acre
  5. One teaspoon of healthy soil contains up to 1 billion individual bacteria
  6. Earthworm populations consume 2 tons of dry matter per acre per year, partly digesting and mixing it to form soil
  7. Healthy soil is key to feeding the world’s population, which is predicted to grow to 9 billion by 2050
  8. 14 million acres of prime U.S. farmland were lost to development between 1982 and 2007
  9. A mix of clay, silt and sand known as loamy soil is the ideal soil for gardening
  10. Soil is a finite resource – its loss and degradation cannot be recovered within a human lifespan
An illustration showing the texture and composition of soil.

This illustration is excerpted from ‘Farm Anatomy’ by Julia Rothman.

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