The life supporting natural resource which is formed by mixing of weathered rock materials and decomposed biomass consisting of organic matter is called soil. It is one of the important natural resources. Soil is the most essential element of existence of life on earth.
Soil is the living ecosystem. Without soil, there is no existence of life. In our Vedas, it is said that life form on this earth consists of five elements and soil is one of them.
So, creation of life form belongs to soil, development of life form belongs to soil, destruction of life form belongs to soil.
“If a healthy soil is full of death, it is also full of life.”
Formation of soil
Rocks are the chief sources for the parent materials over which soil formation takes place. Rocks are converted into parent materials by the weathering process. In other words, weathering process precedes the soil formation. Parent materials include rocks, loses, alluvium, sand etc.
Weathering process means the physical and chemical deterioration of rocks over time due to factors like temperature, heat, pressure, water, wind etc. It takes more than thousand years for the formation of just one-inch layer of soil.
Components of soil
Soil contains different kinds of components. The components are given below
Air- In between the spaces of soil particles air is present. Soil with loose surface allows air diffusion in to it. Air contains gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen etc. Concentration of carbon dioxide is more than other gases.
Water- Water is the solution of organic and inorganic compounds. Soil contains water as it contains both organic and inorganic materials. Soil with more number of pores contain more water as water is absorbed in those pores.
Minerals- During weathering process, disintegration of rocks occurs. At that time particles of minerals are formed inside the soil.
Organic matters- These are the decayed form of organic substances like plants, animals, micro-organisms on the soil. These kinds of substances increase the fertility of the soil.
Micro-organisms- Micro -organisms like bacteria, fungi, algae are present in high numbers in the soil. These organisms act as decomposers of plants, animals, other organisms.
The above all components make soil suitable for existence and development of life form.
Soil as life
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrect or, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we have no community, because without proper care for it we have no life” -Wendell Berry
So, the existence of life form on this earth solely depends on soil. It forms the surface and ecosystem of the earth.
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As we early stated that soil is the living ecosystem. Soil is the habitat of all kinds of organisms. Different kinds of bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa and undiscovered microbes acting as decomposes are found in high numbers in soil.
These micro-organisms decompose dead plant and animal bodies. As a result, pollution due to decaying dead bodies of animals decreases and it increases the quantity of organic matters in soil which makes the soil more fertile suitable for cultivation.
Soil is the natural medium for plant growth. Soil contains air which consists of gases like carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen. For plant growth air ventilation is needed. So, soil provides oxygen, air ventilation for plant to grow. Water is also a major component of soil.
For plant growth water is important as it act as nutrient carrier and a main factor of plant life. Soil also contains minerals like silicon, aluminium, phosphorous, magnesium, carbon, iron, nitrogen etc. which are important elements.
Non-renewable resources like coal, petroleum, gold, copper, silver are found inside the earth. The modern world is standstill without these resources. These resources have become the integrated part of our life.
Soil holds the souvenir of our past and our cultural heritage buried in it. Soil plays a vital role as carbon reservoir as it absorbs most of the carbon dioxide gas and reduces the greenhouse gas concentration to some extent. Soil decomposes the dead bodies of plants and animals but it preserves their existence in the form of fossil.
For us food, cloth, and house are basic needs of life. Soil is the origin for all the three needs. When there is no soil, there is no food, no cloth, no house.
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” -Thoreau
As soil is the origin of existence and development of life form on earth, conservation of it is must. Because without soil the whole living process is unthinkable. As earlier stated above that one-inch layer of soil formation takes more than thousand years.
Soil erosion mainly takes place due to water, wind, fertilizers etc. Heavy flow of water and heavy rainfall washes away the soil from one place to another. When there is no cover of plants, wind causes soil erosion. Loss of minerals, nutrients in soil as a result of utilization of fertilizers makes a steep erosion. Deforestation holds another cause.
Roots of trees hold the soil in a compact manner. Litter of leaves resists soil erosion caused by wind and heavy rainfall. So, deforestation enhances the process of erosion.
Soil conservation includes following process
- Afforestation prevails erosion by reducing the velocity of wind and the roots held the soil in a strong manner.
- Growing of vegetation cover on the ground conserves soil.
- Crop rotation shoots up the productivity of the lands.
- Slowing down the water movement along the slope.
- Reduction in the usage of fertilizers, pesticides.
- Protection of soil from the strike of heavy water drops.
“Soil is a resource, a living, breathing entity that, if treated properly will maintain itself. When it has finally been depleted, the human population will disappear… project your imagination into the soil below you next time you go into the garden.
Think with compassion of the life that exists there. Think the drama, the sexuality, the harvesting, the work that carries on ceaselessly.”
Importance of soil cannot explicitly be described in words. The significance or prominence of soil is huge on every corner of the earth let it be plants or animals or microorganisms.