DIRT IS JUST DIRT–OR IS IT?

soil pit

by Jennifer Bearden, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Many of us walk around daily and give no thought to what is under our feet. We don’t consider soil a vital natural resource, but it is. As with water and air, soil quality is important to our society. Here are examples of how soil affects our ecosystems:

It aids plant growth. Plants root into the soil structure, which stabilizes the plant above ground. Soil holds necessary nutrients, air and water.
It regulates water supplies. While contaminants and excess nutrients in poor soils can leach into groundwater, soils also can purify poor-quality water before it recharges groundwater supplies in septic tanks or rain gardens.
It recycles nutrients needed for plant growth. Without this function, plants and animals would exhaust nutrients in the soils and there would be much waste piled high in our ecosystem.
Numerous soil organisms would lack a habitat without it. Earthworms, microscopic worms, bacteria, fungi and more call soil home. These organisms help keep soils healthy and crops growing.
It’s used in engineering. For many years, humans have used soils to build and construct homes, roads and pottery, to name a few.
It changes the atmosphere’s chemical composition. Air is a major component of our soils. Soils exchange gases necessary for plant growth and microorganism survival. In addition, dry, small soil particles can be picked up by winds, causing human health concerns due to dust in the air we breathe.

So, is dirt just dirt or is it much more? I contend that without it, we wouldn’t be here today.

So when you walk around, consider the soil under your feet. Soon, you wil see that soil surrounds us every day and is a very importnt natural resouce.

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