Flood and drought. Two sides of the same coin

Niels Corfield’s blog post this week, Wet on top, dry underneath, shares how poor soil health, in particular, poor soil structure due to lacking soil biology, leads to floods, drought and reduced yields.

It resonates what I am learning right now in Regen Academy’s module on Why we have water-stressed crops with 30 inches of rain.

Healthy soil is in some ways like a sponge: It has soil crumbs – connected aggregates, and pores between them that can be filled with water and air. Healthy soil has a good balance of water and air in the different pore sizes, offering living condition for a rich diversity of soil organisms.
These in turn, through their secretions, glue smaller and larger crumbs together, creating exactely these needed pore spaces, and stable soils.

A sponge can soak up a lot of water. Same with good soil.

But what if the sponge has gone through the shredder, and another shredder, and another, let’s say, it’s been shredded about 50 times? What happened those connections that held the sponge together? What if, essentially, we just ended up with shreds of fibres, unconnected? How well would the sponge hold water?
How much washing could we do with a shredded sponge?
And to take this back to soil, can shredded soil serve its’ vital functions?

In land management and farming, tillage – ploughing, leaving soil exposed and using chemicals that destroy the biology (fertiliser salts, pesticides, herbicides) are some of those shredders.

For gardeners and allotmenteers, it’s rotavating, digging, fertiliser salts and weed killers.

And yes, even organic practices often “shred” the soil.

With poor soil structure, destroyed by management practices, water can’t get into the soil when it rains. So when it rains, it will just follow the course of gravity, runs off the fields. And what can’t go in in the first place, won’t be there in the growing season to supply plants with water.

It won’t replenish our ground water stores.

Hmm, aren’t water and food pretty essential to life?

The good news:

We can change soil management. We can restore soil health.
We can reduce the risk of flooding and impact of drought, particularly in the face of climate change.
We do choose by our food habits, own growing practices, our engagement with farmers, retailers, politicians. And by learning how things are connected.

What choices am I making today?

Read Niel’s post here.

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