Know The Soil

Know The Soil

Organic Consumers, be self-empowered.

First of Series- Know the Soil 

Healthy, Fertile Soil

Infertile Soil

It is natural for a common man to question the authenticity of  “Organic food” available in the markets today. In fact, I would insist, one must. Knowing, what makes your food organic; will empower you to make the right choices.

Sun, Soil, Water and Air make the food for everybody.  Each plays a pivotal and specific role in food production. It is a good idea to start with the Soil.

Soil is made of minerals, air, water and organic matter-biomass from trees and living organisms. It takes around 200 years for formation of 1 cm of soil and 3000 years for it to have enough components to make it fertile. This should put the questions about the “Organic quality of soil” in perspective for us. A soil is either fertile or it’s a deserted land without any bioactivity.

For beginners it is necessary to know about soil carbon, this enables growth. Plants get all the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen they need from carbon dioxide and water, which they use to build carbohydrates during photosynthesis. To build other kinds of molecules they also need elements like nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur. Plants get these as well as other elements from the soil.

A farmer has to focus on increasing the soil carbon, target being 1 (currently its dropped to 0.4% which is pointing to desertification of the soil).

Majority of the soil carbon is in topsoil, which is the humus. A biotic soil is moist and has a texture like tea powder. Moisture in soil indicates its capacity to retain water, hence higher the soil carbon, more is the absorption of water, less run off, increased water table. Having living life in the form of trees, bushes, grasses, vines, wild animals, birds and micro organisms to decompose the same is indicator of a complete soil circuit in the land.

A farm, when it has all the necessary components of a sustainable ecosystem; suitable microclimatic conditions; the microorganisms thrive and make the soil. When you see hectors of organic farm land with just crops , you know its not standing on a balanced ecosystem.

In a desire to EAT HEALTHY FOOD by causing less damage to the environment, many farming methodologies took shape in past 30 years. Organic/Natural/Biodynamic/Permaculture/Zero Budget/Vedic etc. to name a few. Based on the beliefs and resources people adapted to one that fits into their scheme of things.

The Organic farming community can loosely be classified into 5 groups.

  • Conventional farmers who have been practicing agriculture as main source of livelihood for 4 generations or more.
  • First generation farmers, practicing sustainable farming for past 30 plus years
  •  New breed of farmers, who treat organic farming as business.
  • New breed of farmers wanting to do organic farming because they want to follow a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
  • Corporate Farmers, who do organic farming for exports and volume business. 

Each group, treats their soil differently. It depends on forest cover, carbon sequestration, cropping pattern, tilling methods, water harvesting, use of indigenous seeds, livestock and nature of organic inputs given to soil.

First group, which has moved away from chemical input intensive farming to chemical free farming, (green revolution started post world war II, so its nearly 60 plus years of onslaught) has double task of removing the chemical residue from the soil and water. Build humus and carbon content back in the soil.

The first generation farmers who started off sustainably, followed the path of building an ecosystem first and farmed as a part of it. Their soil is healthier, no doubt.

3rd group looks at production rather then productivity and hops from one method to another , then focusing on ecosystem and soil.  This is an Impatient lot.

4th group has potential and will contribute to better carbon sequestration then food for masses.

5th group is going the same dooms way by extracting more and more from the soil by giving more and more top organic inputs. No emphasis on plantation, soil carbon and ecosystem.

What you EAT comes directly from the soil, like the nutrition, flavor, aroma and taste.

So when you buy Organic Produce, see whose farm the product is coming from, and make that important choice!

Be empowered.