#1 Steep drop in organic content
For any soil to have agricultural potential, it must have a minimum of 3–6% organic content. The average organic content is 1.48% in northern Europe, 1.1% in southern Europe, 1.25–1.4 % in the United States, 0.68% in India, and 0.3% in Africa. In large parts of the world, it is well below 1%. Across the world, not a single nation has a minimum of 3%. What this means is that most agricultural soil on the planet is inching towards desertification.
#2 Only 60 years of agricultural soil left
The United Nations agencies, with enough scientific data, are saying that the planet has agricultural soil only for another eighty to hundred crops. That means we would run out of soil in 45 to 60 years. If that happens, there will be a serious food crisis on the planet.
#3 Soil is the largest living system in the universe
We are treating soil as an inert substance. No, it is a living system – the largest living system that we know in this universe. A handful of soil in a tropical country has five-seven billion organisms. Without their activity, we cannot exist. Even in the evolutionary scale of things, it is the activity of these microorganisms which has made us the way we are. We look so different from them, but 60% of our body is micro-organisms; only 40% is from our parental genetics. But every year, on an average, 27,000 species in the soil habitat are going extinct.
#4 The complex trading system in soil
Today, it is common knowledge that without the help of the gut microbiome, you cannot digest the food that you eat. Similarly, plants cannot absorb nourishment from the soil directly by themselves. It only happens as an exchange between microbial life and plant life. Plant life captures carbon from the atmosphere, converts it into carbon sugars and trades very judiciously with the microbes for whatever it needs in terms of nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, etc. Without this complex trading system in the soil, life cannot exist.
#5 Soil needs plants and photosynthesis
Essentially, our problem is that 71% of the world’s land is plowed farmland, and 4.2% is paved. This has reduced the amount of photosynthesis on the planet, which is a huge process of sequestering carbon and producing oxygen. Before the phenomenon of photosynthesis, the average oxygen content in the atmosphere was a shade over 1%. Today, it is 21%. However, in the last 1,000 years, the amount of photosynthesis has come down by 85%.
#6 A huge carbon sink
There is no way you can talk about climate change or global warming without referring to soil degradation. Healthy soil is one of the best carbon sinks in the world, even better than the ocean in terms of square footage. If the soil is covered and has humus (organic content), it absorbs the carbon from the atmosphere. At the same time, unhealthy soil, which is plowed and exposed, is a source of emission of both carbon dioxide and methane.
#7 The largest water soak
Soil is the largest water soak on the planet. If you take away organic content from the soil, it becomes sand. If you put organic content into sand, it becomes soil. This is the simple mechanics. If soil is organically rich, we can store eight times more water than all the rivers on the planet put together.
With all this in mind, we launched the Conscious Planet – Save Soil movement. As a part of the movement, we are trying to touch 3.5 billion citizens across the world, to impress upon all political parties and governments to take to long-term soil regeneration policies. Let us make it happen.