What is Soil Conservation?
Soils are essential for the continuity of life on earth since many ecosystems depend on them for survival. Still, soils persist to face serious threats in so many ways. Soil erosion, use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, unsustainable agricultural practices, excessive farming, water pollution and land pollution are some of the aspects upsetting the natural functions of the soil. This is where soil conservation comes in.
Soil conservation is the practice of protecting the soil against erosion or deterioration. It involves the activities that can be undertaken to ensure our soils are at their optimum quality and health.
Various Ways to Conserve Soil
The techniques to conserve soil are very simple and require implementation so as to reduce the dire environmental impacts. Some of the categories and ways to conserve the soil include:
1. Agricultural Soil Conservation
Agricultural soil conservation involves the practices that can be used by farmers to promote the health and quality of soils. They encompass:
- Refraining from the practice of till farming
Without till farming, crops have the chance to remain on the soil instead of being plowed under at the end of the cropping season. The benefit of this practice is that it keeps the soil anchored rather than leaving it naked and open to erosion because of the exposure to the physical forces of wind and water.
- Practice of contour plowing
Contour plowing involves planting crops following the contour of the landscape rather than planting crops in straight vertical rows. This orients crop furrows to follow the contour lines thus reducing water runoff during rainstorms.
Crops planted up and down hillsides or in straight vertical rows allow water runoff to flow through, washing away the topsoil. Conversely, contour plowing slows water runoff and as such, prevents soil erosion and allows the water to infiltrate the soil. Counter plowing is proven to increase crop yields from 10% up to 50%.
- Practicing organic farming
Organic farming is exclusively reliant on green manure, compost, biological pest control, and crop rotation to produce crops, livestock, and poultry. Also, it is dependent on developing ecological biodiversity in the plantation farm to interrupt the habitation of pests and diseases, and ensuring meaningful maintenance and improvement of soil fertility.
The aim of organic farming is to attain a balanced ecological production management system that can encourage and improve soil biological activity and biodiversity. It involves minimum use of synthetic chemicals or inputs outside the farm while ensuring management practices that preserve, replenish, and enhance the soil and ecological stability.
- Practice of terrace farming
Terrace farming is almost similar to contour farming. It uses the land topography to establish a series of terraces to reduce water runoff during rainstorms. It involves the practice of creating closely leveled areas in a hillside area like a series of steps with each step placed at a higher level than the previous one. This farming practice aims to improve soil retention and water infiltration.
2. Home Soil Conservation Methods
Home soil conservation methods are the techniques that can be utilized at home to preserve and improve soil quality. They include:
- Planting a rain garden
Rain garden refers to a small and shallow depression in your yard that you can use to collect storm water in order for you to grow some wetland crops. Rain gardens can prevent soil erosion and provides you with an opportunity to grow your own plants.
- Reduce impervious surfaces
Impervious surfaces limit infiltration of water into the soil and promote the free flow of water. For this reason, surface runoff can gain higher speeds leading to erosion of lakeshores and streambanks. Use of paving stones is a better alternative to concrete slab as it allows the water to pass into the soil.
- Practice organic gardening
Growing your own plants, vegetables, and fruits in the best natural way without the use of pesticides or synthetic chemical fertilizers can help conserve the soil. Gardening organically encompasses supporting the health of the entire gardening system naturally by working in harmony with the natural systems including the soil, water supply, people, and even insects. Organic gardening thus nourishes and sustains soil quality and health.
3. Resource planning
Proper resource planning can as well significantly help to conserve the soil. The approaches include:
- Planting vegetation cover and forest restoration
Forests and vegetation cover root systems anchors and hold the soil in place. Most importantly, trees, vegetation cover, and shrubs prevent the physical forces of wind and water that often contributes to soil erosion. Besides, it ensures sufficient supply of organic matter from the dead leaves and protects the soil from the sun’s harsh radiation. Forest and Vegetation cover also helps to reduce evaporation and preserves soil moisture needed for quality and fertile soil.
- Proper waste disposal and management
Poor waste disposal and management pose a huge threat to soil preservation. Approaches such as recycling and re-use can be implemented to reduce land and water pollution that leads to soil degradation. Through recycling and proper waste management, we can minimise the amount of toxic and harmful contaminants that seep into the soil. When effectively implemented, it can dramatically improve the quality and health of the soils.
- Restoration of Wetlands
Restoration of the wetlands qualifies as one of the most fundamental ways to prevent soil erosion. Wetlands act as natural sponges, allowing for water infiltration and preventing it from washing the soil away. Furthermore, wetlands support impressive ecosystems and biodiversity including birds and other wildlife, and equally aids in preventing water pollution.
- Planting vegetation and trees along stream/river banks
Planting vegetation, trees, and shrubs along the river and stream banks can serve as buffer strips that can help hold stream/river banks together in cases of flooding. It also limits the entry of runoff into waterways.