All About Soil Quality
There are so many small details that go into farming that people may be unaware of. For example, soil quality. I bet the average person standing in a farmer’s market or grocery store, staring at a bunch of kale or a basket of cucumbers, probably isn’t thinking of the soil quality of where those crops came from. They probably aren’t wondering if the soil was dense with nutrients, or if the farmers had biodiversity in mind. No, I’ll bet they’re wondering what kale would taste like alongside their pasta and meatballs for dinner, or whether those cucumbers will have annoyingly bitter skin. So, what is soil quality and why is it important?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, soil quality is defined as:
The capacity of a specific kind of soil to function, within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation.
Soil quality is one of the paramount features of organic farming. Soil quality basically describes how well the soil can function for many aspects, including productivity. The quality of the soil governs so many things, like nutrient density of the foods, water and air quality, and more. Recent research has shown that organic farming can actually increase soil quality by depositing more nutrients and carbon into the soil itself.
Soil quality is important for our well-being for the following reasons:
- It gives us clean air and water
- It helps to deliver bountiful crops each season
- Good soil produces a more nutritious and healthful crop
- By striving for quality soil, biodiversity is also promoted
- Good soil enhances water quality
- Soil quality supports more productive land
All of these benefits boil down to soil’s five main functions:
- Regulate water
- Sustain plant life
- Cycle nutrients
- Filter pollutants out
- Support buildings and structures
These five functions illustrate the broad reaching effects of soil in our crops and also our environment. One big difference between organic and conventional farming is that organic farming practices strive to enhance soil quality by rotating crops, covering crops and/or soil when appropriate, and using natural sources of nutrients to enhance the soil.
So who would’ve thought? That cucumber that you just selected has a long history behind it that all starts with the soil.