With the American Thanksgiving on my doorstep, I start thinking about the many ways my life is positively impacted by soil. So, in no particular order, here are the top 10 reasons why I’m thankful for soil.
10 reasons to be thankful for soil
1. Soil makes me happy.
It’s just not freaky me that gets a lift from working with soil. Everyone does. Scientists have isolated a strain of soil bacterium —Mycobacterium vaccae —that triggers the release of serotonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety.
2. Soil grows food.
FAO estimates 95 per cent of our food come directly or indirectly from soil. Soil is the foundation of our food system. I like to eat and drink. Coffee, tea and chocolate. Enough said.
3. Soil improves water quality.
Walking along the Etobicoke Creek close to my home, it’s good to see that the water is clear, providing a clean safe environment for ducks, herons, fish, turtles and deer to thrive. Smells great too.
Soil combined with vegetation work together to improve water quality as stormwater filters through it.
Nathalie Shanstrom on Deeproot website explains that “some pollutants are held or filtered by soil, others are taken up or transformed by plants or microbes, and still others are first held by soil and then taken up by vegetation or degraded by bacteria, “recharging” the soil’s absorption capacity in between rain events.”
4. Soil is used for pottery and other artwork.
Every time I go on holiday, I bring back a piece of local artisan pottery. Pottery gives me so much joy. One of my best buys is a set of plates and dishes from Campbell Pottery, which I bought on trip down to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
Many of the materials used for traditional artwork come from the earth. For example clay is used for ceramics; sands and minerals are heated and blown into glass; marble and other rock chiselled into sculptures; and natural pigments extracted from clay, rocks, charcoal and minerals are used in paints, dyes and inks.
5. Soil fights global warming.
Even though the climate change hasn’t changed the weather too much in my part of the world, many of my gardening friends in California, Texas and Arizona complain about the on going drought and hot temperatures continuing well into fall. Something has to done. I was happy to hear that soil plays a significant role in carbon sequestration.
Soil holds more carbon than the atmosphere and plants put together. For two centuries, agricultural tilling has released much of this soil-bound carbon into the air. Cars, factories and other human technology have added even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
But the hope is that farmers and gardeners will remove the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the air by increasing the amount of organic matter (carbon) they put back into the soil. Plants take carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and when they die the carbon they stored is returned to the soil.
France is even planning to legislate the effort! French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll proposed the ambitious target of increasing French soil carbon contents by 0.04% year-on-year (“4 pour mille”).
6. Soil is a place to play!
Soil plays a huge part in beach volleyball and tennis courts, as well as baseball field and golf grounds. Let us not forget sandlots and playing in the mud. We’re never too old. And how can I forget? Gardens are place to play too!
7. Soil grows beautiful gardens.
Nothing but puts my mind at ease like beautiful gardens, conservation areas and parks. Without soil, there wouldn’t be gorgeous displays of flora. Some of my favourite gardens include the Toronto Botanical Garden (Toronto, Ontario), Butchart Gardens (Victoria, British Columbia), Biltmore (Ashville, North Carolina) and Kingsbrae Garden (Saint Andrews, New Brunswick).
My favourite go-to conservation areas/parks are the Terra Cotta Conservation Area and the Forks of the Credit River Provincial Park, which are both a few miles away from where I live. It’s a world apart from the urban busyness.
I’m definitely thankful for the charming tiny urban parkettes dotted throughout many North American cities. It adds a much needed touch of nature to a concrete jungle.
8. Soil support buildings.
I’m thankful I brought a house built on a solid soil foundation. Although the area has clay soil, it isn’t the dreaded expansive clay type that damages buildings and roads. Apparently the damage caused each year by expansive soil costs more to fix than damage caused by hurricanes and tornadoes! We can’t build castles in the air OR on expansive soils.
9. Soil is a source of new antibiotic drugs.
Even though I’m not a big fan of antibiotics (they kill off gut flora), I acknowledge there are times when I need them. I was super grateful for the antibiotics I took when I my surgery incision became infected a couple weeks ago.
Many of the most widely used antibiotics have come from soil. Penicillin came from Penicillium, a fungus found in soil, and vancomycin came from a bacterium found in dirt.
The Scientist reported, “Researchers from Northeastern University and NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals have identified a new Gram-positive bacteria-targeting antibiotic from a soil sample collected in Maine that can kill species including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.” The antibiotic is called teixobactin,
10. Soil has expanded my world
Ever since I started #groundchat, a weekly tweetchat on soil-related topics, I’ve interacted with all kinds of wonderful people from all walks of life. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with and learning from guest hosts with specialized knowledge all this year.
Thank you to this year’s #groundchat guest hosts (in chronological order, January to November):
Wayne Clingman @revolutionyfarm
Mia Nichols @modernmiagarden
Leda Marritz @rethinktrees
Landan Dallyn @TakeBacktheFarm
Sean James @seanfernridge
Brenda Haas @BG_Garden
Kristen Ohlson @KristinOhlson
Cathy Nesbitt @Squirm
Sarah DePass @StarkBrosCares
Chris Sabbarese @CoronaTools
Glenn Munroe @Ont_Eco
CL Fornari @thegardenlady
Steve Biggs @NoGuffSteve
Kathy Jentz @WDCGardener
Craig LeHoullier @nctomatoman
Chris VanCleave @RedneckRosarian
Sheryl Williams @YardFanatic
Brandon Coppin and April Shelhon @BotanicalSeeds
Trish Evans, Abigail Palutis, Dr. Matt Taylor @longwoodgardens
Mary Martinez & Eric Grady @HorizonDist
Gary Ogle @veseys
Tony Spencer @NewPerennialist
Paul Zammit and Jenny Rhodenizer @TBG_Canada
Candace Hess @blackmorel
Patrick Tohill @GardenKImbourne
Eric Lawton @Eric0Lawton
What are your reasons to be thankful for soil?