Natural Ways To Sustain And Develop Topsoil

The year 2015 has been dubbed the "Year of Soil" by the United Nations. This is rightly so, as the concern for the sustainability of topsoil has been present for some time with a rough estimation suggesting that current rates of degradation may see only about 60 years of topsoil left. The loss of approximately 30 soccer fields of topsoil per minute helps to feed into a vicious cycle of less plant growth increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and reduced rainfall. A variety of farming and gardening methods are estimated to aid in the loss of carbon in the soil, making it weaker and less likely to sustain robust plant yield. These practices also increase soil loss at between 10 and 40 times its natural replenishment rate. 

However, there are ways to ensure that you can get the best yield for your plants, whether through gardening or farming, while maintaining the health and stability of your topsoil. Here are a few ways to consider.

Do not disturb

One of the major practices in preparing the land for planting your crops, flowers or herbs is to till the soil. The amount of tillage done can be controversial as this may be part of what causes the topsoil to be lost during heavy rails and eroded by wind during the dry times. However, one of the ways to prepare the land is through conservation tilling where at least 30 percent of the residue coverage of the land remains, no tilling is done and the seeds are put in directly into the previous plant's residue. This can not only help to save the topsoil but it provides nutrients for the microbes in the soil, through the roots already present and allows for the natural build-up of soil through the work of earthworms and other small earth insects.

Since these creatures that enrich the soil can be killed off through the use of chemical fertilizers as well as chemical pest sprays, these should be avoided. Earthworms can also be added to your topsoil and cost about $4 per thousand.

Maintain your moisture

Water is essential to the process of growing plants but it is also one of the ways that topsoil can be lost. Older farming techniques incorporated the use of foliage, in the form of twigs and leaves (mulch), that covered the ground and allowed the topsoil to be cooler and to retain the moisture for a longer period of time. Doing this allows for less watering and the retention of the nutrients in the soil. This method can be effective even in drought conditions, which are predicted to be longer and more severe in coming years. With naturally aerated soils from earthworms and the roots of consistently planted crops, moisture can become less of a problem during the rainy time as well as during dry spells.

This could mean that there may be no need to leave the land fallow at any period in time as this seems to be a way of starving the microbes and earthworms that are needed to make more soil. Fallow land also allows for faster drying and the subsequent eradication of precious topsoil.