Soil is one of the most valuable natural resources available to us.
It is very important for sustenance of life on the earth.
The top soil which is suitable for plant growth is eroded due to human activities like construction of building, homes, roads and city expansions.
Unfortunately we humans of this generation have been habituated to avoid even soil contact by foot. Many of us are even unaware of soil, its feel, touch and its properties.
Soil plays a vital role in the survival of living beings on the earth. Its importance can be listed as
1. Soil fertility: Fertile soil supports growth of plants. In-turn these plants produce vital needs to humans like food, clothing, furniture, medicine etc. Even other animals, insects receive food by grazing on plants.
2. Soil microbiology: It provides support for survival of many bacteria, algae, fungi etc.. These bacteria and microbes present in soil help in environmental balance like retaining of moisture, decay of dead bodies of animals, plants etc., scavenging of waste and other toxic chemicals including plastic.
3. Top soil provides shelter for insects, reptiles, birds and animals. Further top soil 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, sulphates, 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 source of essential minerals and elements needed for various enzyme and cell reactions.
5. Soil a source of minerals: Minerals and mines present in 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. 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 construction of homes, buildings, roads etc
8. Soil a source medicines: Soil gives us some important mineral medicines like calcium (bones), iron (anemia) 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 wind blowing from sea surface to land surface. This is because soil get heated fast and cools fast unlike water. Hence during heavy summer, soil gets heated fast and so the air above it raises causing low pressure for the air from sea surface to flow on to land. This is why the atmosphere remains cool.
10. Home for animals, bird & 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, lizard live in the soils. Even insects live and nest in the soil. Some birds also nest in the soil. Thus soil provides a safe shelter to many living beings and promotes biodiversity.
Top Soil Uses:
1. Agriculture: Top soil is used for agricultural production of crops necessary for human and animal food and clothing needs. Soil has fertility like essential minerals and organic matter needed for cultivation.
2. Microbial growth: Soil texture is suitable for cultivation of bacteria, fungus etc. These bacteria are suitable for fixing nitrogen and fertility in soil. Further these microbes produce medicine like antibiotics.
3. Water harvesting: When there is rain, soil absorbs water. This water goes into deeper layer of soil and is available for Plants and forest to grow. Further this water is also available as ground water 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 soil. Soil gives safe protection and environment for its growth. Hence it is useful for 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 promotes 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 world would have been a place full of corpses (dead bodies) and other waste.
Tips for soil conservation:
Soil conservation is very 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 top soil being blown away by heavy winds and also being carried away by rain water and floods.
Hence Top soil erosion has to be prevented by wide cultivation of plants. They acts as natural hindrance to winds and prevents soil erosion. Tilling of soil against the flow direction of rain water 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.