While soil is often seen as simply a component of the growing process for a plan, it is in fact far more complex. Soil is carefully built out of various components, such as pure mineral sludge pulled up from beneath glaciers and old pieces of aquatic life ground into a fine sand. “Tephra” describes broken down volcanic rock, and a mix of part sand and part clay is called “loess”. However, it is the billions of tiny microorganisms that make the soil come to life. These microbes are so diverse and numerous that 70-80% remain unidentified. Other soil nutrients, and food for the microbes, come from organic matter in the soil that is slowly being broken down.
A healthy mix of minerals, microbes, and nutrients.
Soil is packed full of its various ingredients, but soil also relies on the space it doesn’t occupy just as much as the space that it does. 50% of the space that soil occupies contains no soil at all. Soil pores are tiny pockets in the soil that allow microbes to move and function, and make the soil loose enough for plant roots to move throughout the ground. The relationship between plants and soil is far more complex than one might think. By offering sugars, proteins, and carbohydrates through its roots, the plant attracts organisms that will remain surrounding the plant roots to protect and defend them.
These fragile roots need the protection of secure soil and healthy microbes to defend them in order to survive.
This system seems perfect, but many modern agricultural practices deplete the soils nutrient and organism content, and the massive amounts of crops demanded by industries cannot be supported. The soil is doused in fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides as a result. While it is common knowledge that these artificial chemicals aren’t beneficial, it is less known that even low doses of some pesticides can abort fetuses in the mother’s womb. They can also result in birth defects and developmental problems. Another result of the use of pesticides is the alteration of the plants necessary to survive with these chemicals. For example, Roundup-ready soybeans is a name for a soybean type that was designed to work with the pesticide Roundup, which destroys beneficial microbes.
This corn has been genetically engineered so that gallons of toxic chemicals can be dumped on it without it dying. Everything else living in the soil, however, will feel the full effects of the pesticides and die.
Symphony of Soil is a great documentary that explains soil in a very comprehensive and interesting way, using both footage and animation. It also investigates all the different types of soil and its relationship with the rest of the world. The film also explores the soil crisis we are experiencing, and the consequences of certain types of harmful soil, both on the soil itself and the world at large, including the impact on humans and bodies of water. I found this documentary to be pretty much ideal. It thoroughly educates, demonstrates problems, and offers solutions. One thing I would add to improve the documentary is a section actions that an individual can take. Saving the soil is a community effort, but some more information on what a small family could do would encourage people to take steps towards saving the soil, even small ones. Including both actions at home and organizations to get involved in would be a helpful addition.