The soil is one of the most valuable natural resources available to us.
The importance of soil and its uses include
- Fertility to plants and crops
- Microbial environment
- Source of medicines
- Retains water (enhances groundwater levels)
- Shelter for animals
- Source of valuable minerals
- Helps to decompose waste
- Growth of microbes
- Construction material
- Cools the atmosphere
- Making Utensils
Importance of soil
Soil plays a vital role in the survival of living beings on earth. It provides
1. Soil fertility: Fertile soil supports the growth of plants. In-turn these plants produce vital needs for humans like food, clothing, furniture, medicine, etc. Even other animals, insects receive food by grazing on plants.
2. Soil microbiology: It provides support for the survival of many bacteria, algae, fungi, etc.. These bacteria and microbes present in soil help in environmental balance like retaining of moisture, the decay of dead bodies of animals, plants, etc., scavenging of waste and other toxic chemicals including plastic.
3. Topsoil provides shelter for insects, reptiles, birds, and animals. Further topsoil is necessary for even other activities like nesting, reproduction, hatching of eggs, breeding, etc.
4. Soil organic matter contains essential minerals and elements like phosphates, sulfates, calcium, zinc, magnesium and many more. These elements are provided to plant during growth and from there to all the living forms. Hence they act as a source of essential minerals and elements needed for various enzyme and cell reactions.
5. Soil a source of minerals: Minerals and mines present in the soil is the source of many metals like iron, bauxite, zinc, etc. Many metal elements are mixed up with soil and hence extracted from soil by technical processes.
6. The soil is used for making utensils, tiles, etc. The utensils like cups, plates china clay, plaster of Paris, etc. Tiles used in home or building made of ceramic-like soil components.
7. Soil contents like gravel, clay, sand, etc. are widely used for the construction of homes, buildings, roads, etc
8. Soil a source of medicines: Soil gives us some important mineral medicines like calcium (bones), iron (hemoglobin) bentonite (laxative) and other substance like petroleum jelly, steatite for cosmetics, talcum powders, etc.
9. Soil keeps atmosphere cool: Soil absorbs water when there is rain and so when is there is heavy sun heat, this water from soil evaporates making the air cooler.
Further, you might have noticed the wind blowing from the sea surface to the land surface. This is because the soil gets heated fast and cools fast unlike water. Hence during heavy summer, the soil gets heated fast and so the air above it rises to cause low pressure for the air from the sea surface to flow on to land. This is why the atmosphere remains cool.
10. Home for animals, birds & insects: Soil is the natural dwelling place for many living beings. Animals like, rats, mice, guinea pigs, mongoose, squirrel, etc. live in the burrows made in the soil. Reptiles like snakes, lizards live in the soils. Even insects live and nest in the soil. Some birds also nest in the soil. Thus soil provides safe shelter to many living beings and promotes biodiversity.
Top Soil Uses:
1. Agriculture: Topsoil is used for agricultural production of crops necessary for human and animal food and clothing needs. The soil has fertility like essential minerals and organic matter needed for cultivation.
2. Microbial growth: Soil texture is suitable for the cultivation of bacteria, fungus, etc. These bacteria are suitable for fixing nitrogen and fertility in the soil. Further, these microbes produce medicine like antibiotics.
3. Water harvesting: When there is rain, the soil absorbs water. This water goes into a deeper layer of soil and is available for Plants and forests to grow. Further, this water is also available as groundwater for drinking and cultivation (by bore wells).
4. Soil supports germination: Without soil, the earth would have lacked plants, trees, and forests. When a seed from tree falls on to the soil. Soil gives safe protection and the environment for its growth. Hence it is useful for the germination of seeds to grow into plants. Without soil, there would have been no trees and plants on the earth. More than 95% of trees in this world are grown naturally by soil without man sowing the seeds.
5. Waste Decay: Soil layers promote decay of waste and pollutants by microbes. The decay of organic matter converts to petroleum and other essential resources. Without soil, there would have been no waste decay and the world would have been a place full of corpses (dead bodies) and other waste.
The topsoil which is suitable for plant growth is eroded due to human activities like construction of building, homes, roads and city expansions.
On the other hand, the soil layers, responsible for soil fertility, microbiology, and other soil organic matter are polluted and contaminated deliberately due to agricultural and industrial pollution.
Unfortunately, we humans of this generation have been habituated to avoid even soil contact on foot. Many of us are even unaware of soil, its feel, touch, and its properties. But, we should be able to spread the importance of soil for the sustenance of life on the earth.
Tips for soil conservation:
Soil conservation is essential to reap the above benefits. It has to be done in two ways
a) Soil erosion prevention
b) Soil pollution prevention.
The main soil erosion is due to the topsoil being blown away by heavy winds and also being carried away by rainwater and floods.
Hence topsoil erosion has to be prevented by the wide cultivation of plants. They act as a natural hindrance to winds and prevents soil erosion. Tilling of soil against the flow direction of rainwater prevents soil erosion.
Soil layers get polluted due to heavy human activity, and careless disposable of industrial pollution. This pollution also reduces soil fertility and becomes unfit for cultivation.
Hence to minimize soil pollution, it is important to go for organic farming. Also, avoid excess use of artificial pesticides. Besides this minimize industrial pollution. Before discarding the waste, it has to be treated to prevent soil pollution.