Do We Appreciate Soil?
The earth’s soil provides nearly all of our food, can prevent disease and contains nearly one-third of all living organisms. Soil cleans the water flowing into our rivers and lakes. It absorbs vast quantities of carbon, second only to the oceans.
It is interesting to note a mere 0.5 percent of Canada is comprised of Class 1 soil (the most suitable for agriculture) and more than half of that is in Ontario. Farmland is important.
Any material, natural or synthetic, that is applied to soils or directly on the plants to supply one or more nutrients essential to the growth of the plants is considered a fertilizer. Fertilizers are food for plants.
Currently our food system is reliant on fossil fuel energy for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and petroleum based agrochemicals. It is the food industry’s reliance on fossil fuels that has enabled increased production and low prices in tune with our growing global population.
Soil compaction can seriously degrade the ability to grow crops. It is the compression of soil particles into smaller and tighter volume, which reduces the pore space available for air, water and organisms necessary for healthy earth. Compaction impedes root growth and can decrease plants’ ability to take up nutrients and water.
Farmers are careful stewards of their soil. They avoid working wet soil, reduce tillage as much as possible, and use the right equipment for the size of the job. They are well aware of the quality of soil, and work to refresh and build-it up as necessary.
Biosolids are the concentration of all domestic and industrial pollutants that go down drains and sewers. This includes human excrement, microplastics, prions, pharmaceuticals, superbugs, nanomaterials, fire retardants, and a myriad of other toxins.
Dr. Caroline Snyder says “Land-applied municipal sewage sludge (biosolids) is a highly complex and unpredictable mixture of biological and chemical pollutants. Biosolids generated in our large industrialized urban centers is very likely the most pollutant- rich waste mixture of the 21st century.”
Activists are calling for the Canadian government to label food products that have been produced with the use of sewer sludge as fertilizer saying the public has the right to know if its foods were grown in soils on which waste treatment sludge residuals were disposed. They note that Switzerland has completely banned the use of biosolids on agricultural soils and suggest that Canada should do so too. The Swiss took this stand because of “the risk of irreversible damage to the soil, the danger to public health and possible negative effects on the quality of the food farmers produce” … “the precautionary principle has absolute priority in soil protection”.
Currently it is not illegal in Canada for farmers to use biosolids as rich non-fossil fuel fertilizer. It is up to the farmer to decide what is right for his land, family, and business.
It can be argued that we simply use the soil, extracting every bit of goodness from the earth. Perhaps, for the most part, we do. Today our soil is not enough to stop agrochemicals from reaching our waterways or polluting our lakes.
The good news is that there are organic farmers who are re-learning to live with the land, adapting to Mother Nature and her natural systems.
However, in the end, farmers do what they must to survive.
All we can do is stay vigilant. Check our food sources, ask questions, learn, and make decisions in the best interests of ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, and demand that our government put #FoodAndWaterFirst.