Topsoil: Is it Renewable?


Topsoil is generally considered a resource that is non-renewable. It plays a key role in maintaining the sustainability of food and our healthy future. Soil is a limited resource, which cannot be recovered once depleted or degraded in a human lifetime.

Is Topsoil Renewable? Soil is definitely a renewable resource, but not in a human’s lifetime. It is not produced in abundance or freely available. The formation of the soil requires thousands of years, which makes it a non-renewable resource.

Understanding the soil development factors can help find ways to preserve and protect soils for a lasting future.  We need to find out more about soil erosion – and react in helpful ways to preserve our land.

Why Isn’t Topsoil Renewable?

There are many factors to account for why soil is a resource that isn’t easily defined as “renewable.” Soil formation is affected by the following:

  • Parent Material
  • Climate
  • Topography
  • Organisms
  • Time

Parent Material

The soil is formed by the unconsolidated mineral content or organic material. Soils carry their parent material’s physical and chemical characteristics, such as color, texture, structure, mineral composition.

Weather

One of the key factors affecting soil formation. The main contributing factors influencing the climate impact are climatic components, including temperature, rainfall, and precipitation. Such components influence the amount of forest and vegetation and human/animal activity in the area.

The climate of a region also has an influence on the soil formation process and the speed of the weathering process.

Topography

Typical soils formed have a significant effect on the shape of the land surface, its slope, and its landscape position. The surface runoff or water table depth also influence the composition of the soil.

Soils developed in higher altitudes and sloping areas are usually drained or dried excessively. Steep, long paths mean that waterfalls faster, and the surfaces of hills may be eroded. The soil material’s consistency, as well as its size, steepness, and height influence the soil that is formed in a particular area.

Organisms

The development of soil is actively influenced by all the living organisms, including bacteria, fungus, vegetation, humans, and animals. Many forms of micro-organisms encourage acid conditions and alter the soil chemistry which in turn affects the type of soil formation processes.

  • Microbial animals break down organic materials and return decomposition products to the soil.
  • More rotting organic matter results in the destruction of plants, dead insects, and livestock.
  • Mineral and nutrient absorption and chemical reactions are aided by microorganisms.
  • The soil is mixed and modified by earthworm and burrowing animals.
  • They make the soil more air and water permeable in general.
  • Thanks to their waste products, the solar particles are aggregated, and the soil structure improves.

Human activities such as agriculture, plunder, fertilizer use, irrigation, and drainage also have a significant influence on the chemical and physical properties and processes of soil formation.

Time

The time for all these factors to interact with the soil is also a factor to consider. Soil formation is an ongoing process and usually takes thousands of years to make substantial changes. For example, it may take hundreds of years for mousses and lichens to hold when rock is exposed to a warm, humid climate.

They trap dust and organic matter and crack the surface of a rock. Grasses and shrubs are developed within a few hundred years. Roots begin to penetrate the rocks and intensify weathering both physically and chemically. The climate, organisms, and topography have been influencing how parent material is transformed into the soil over thousands of years.

What’s Causing Topsoil to Erode

Rainfall and Flooding

Heavy rain would mean further risk for soil erosion. Rainstorm causes four main types of soil erosion.

  • Rill Erosion
  • Gully Erosion
  • Sheet Erosion
  • Splash Erosion

The effect of raindrops on the ground surface break down and scatter the soil particles that are then washed away by the stormwater is responsible for these erosions. Repeated rain over time will lead to considerable soil loss.

Rivers and Streams

Valley erosion is caused by rivers and streams. Aquatic water flows in rivers and streams eat the floor soil along with the water systems that lead to erosive activity. As rivers and streams are overflowing with land deposits due to sedimentation and the ground levels in the valley, the waters start washing the soil at the banks.

High Winds

 In particular high winds in the areas of dry weather or semi-arid terrestrial regions may lead to soil erosion. The wind gathers the loose soil particles with their natural strength and carries them to distant areas, leaving the ground sculpted and denuded. For arid and semi-arid areas, it is extreme during drought. Therefore, a major source of soil degradation is wind erosion.

Overgrazing, Overstocking, and Tillage Practices

The conversion of natural ecosystems into pastures has greatly contributed to the rates of soil erosion and soil depletion and the loss of soil nutrients and topsoil conditions.

Excessive stock and overgrazing have contributed to the loss of soil cover and the decomposition of soil particles, causing erosion and increasing erosive effects by wind and rain. It reduces the quality and fertility of topsoil.

Farm tillage also splits the soil particles according to the equipment used, rendering the soil susceptible to water erosion.

Deforestation, Reduced Vegetation Cover, and Urbanization

The canopy of vegetation is depleted by deforestation and urbanization. The overall cover of vegetation is also reduced by agricultural practices like burning and clearing of vegetation. It leads to increased soil erosion rates due to the lack of land protection.

Trees and vegetation cover helps maintain the soil particles together, mitigating the erosive effects of rain and floods. Deforestation and urbanization are some of the human actions in the soil depletion process.

Mass Movements and Soil Structure/Composition

The outward and downward motion of the sediments and the rock, due to gravitational pull on the slope or slope surfaces, is an important part of the erosion process. Mass movements aid the disintegration of the soil particles, so they are venerable to erosion from water and wind.

By comparison to sandy or loose silt soils, for example, clay soils are more resistant to soil erosion. Soil moisture and organic matter constitute soil components that affect wind or rain erosion.

How to Preserve Top Soil?

In 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: “All nations’ history is ultimately written in the way they care for their land.”

Here are some tips to help preserve soil:

  • Aerate the soil so that the plant roots can reach nutrients. Run the aerator over the entire lawn length to ensure equal aeration is given to the entire surface of topsoil.
  • Provide enough soil cover to protect the topsoil against water, wind and other natural elements that are gradually eroding the topsoil surface.
  • Use a rake to fill the compost holes created by aeration. The hole should be filled to provide the requisite bacteria to help preserve the topsoil with about 1 inch of compost.
  • Organic matter is an important soil component. To enable soil biodiversity to grow and thrive, add a small dose of organic matter over time.
  • The stocking of bulk (large livestock herds confined to a grazing area) also showed that organic matter could be produced very quickly.
  • Check on infertile soils. In Egypt, projects like Sekem show how the desert itself can become productive agricultural land.
  • Secure soils through a continuous plant and trees.
  • Plant roots protect soil structure by holding them together and allowing air to reach the roots ar. They foster healthy soil environments by interacting with plant fungi.
  • Spread the surface of the topsoil with finely ground grass clippings.

Eyerly Family

The Eyerly Family is a family of 8 that loves gardening. Over the past several years we have been applying what we learn about gardening to our own 16x16 raised back yard garden. Our garden is very prolific and we grow a wide variety of vegetables which we love to eat! Click here to learn more about the Eyerly Family.

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