What is the ground
Long-term alteration of the surface layers of the Earth’s crust produces a crushed mineral material. The further impact of environmental and other factors operate over a given period of time and produce a product – soil – that differs from the mineral material from which it originated in many physical, chemical, biological and morphological properties and characteristics. Soil is often treated as inert material and mainly as a means of supporting human activities. But the ground is much more important:
is a dynamic, living system that comprises a network of inorganic and organic components and contains a multitude of empty spaces and resources within which liquids and gases are contained and circulated. In addition, the soils contain living populations ranging from bacteria to fungi, earthworms and small rodents. The chemical, physical and biological properties of soils vary both in extent and in depth in a variety of scales. Soil formation is the result of the influence of terrain, climate, vegetation, soil microorganisms and time on rocks and parent materials. Thus the differentiation of one of the foregoing factors may alter the path of soil formation. Soil generation is a long process. To create e.g. 30 cm of soil takes about 1,000 to 10,000 years. The process of soil formation is so slow that soil can be considered as a non-renewable resource.
The importance of soil and its functions in the ecosystem
Soil is an important component of the biosphere with crucial functions for the conservation of ecosystems. These functions can be summarized as follows:
Maintaining biological activity, biodiversity and productivity: The soil produces human and animal food, renewable raw materials and at the same time provides nutrients, water, oxygen and mechanical support for plant growth. It is also the medium where large populations of inferior and inferior organisms are developed and protected which are responsible for regeneration and maintenance of soil quality because they contribute to nutrient cycles, organic matter conversions and soil structure. These complex, diverse, and overlapping functional groups of soil organisms give the soil stability or ability to recover after temporary changes.
Regulation of movement and distribution of water:
The infiltration of water (rain or irrigation) through the soil surface and the distribution of soil water are determined by the structural properties of the soil, the cultivation practices applied and the species and population of the soil fauna. . Water regulation is enhanced by the increase in organic matter which has a positive contribution to improving the soil’s structural properties and to increasing the population of micro-organisms and fauna. The increase in the population of organisms also depends on the disturbance of the soil environment (due to frequent mechanical treatment), the presence in the soil of plant protection products and soil moisture and ventilation.
It is a reservoir of nutrients and recycles it: The soil stores nutrients to give it back to the plants. Storage is done either directly at the exchange or adsorption sites or by transforming the living organic matter into inorganic but also the creation of new organic matter by photosynthesis. This creates the recycling of nutrients in the soil. Operation is also important for the carbon cycle, as soil is the most important storehouse of organic carbon. Farming systems and practices that tend to reduce soil organic carbon stocks contribute to the creation of the greenhouse effect.
It supports constructions and protects archaeological treasures: The soil is the means by which the built environment, industrial zones, recreation and entertainment areas and transport networks are created and developed, as well as waste and waste disposal sites. In addition, raw materials are mainly taken from the soil mainly for the construction industry and energy production. The preservation and preservation of archaeological treasures is of particular importance to culture, as it allows understanding of its development and evolution.
Conventional agriculture and soil degradation
Intensive cultivation methods, such as mechanical tillage, harvesting methods, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides combined with the consumption of non-renewable sources of energy have managed to increase world food production in recent decades. But it is now evident that these intensive methods of farming are the main contributor to the severe decline of arable land at more than 10% worldwide over the last decade. It has also been known that these farming practices affect air and water quality. Nowadays, agriculture is considered to be the most widespread non-point source of water pollution, while the quality of the atmosphere can also be affected by changes in the soil’s ability to produce or consume significant amounts of greenhouse gases. According to today’s accepted living standards, human well-being will be seriously endangered in the next century, as crop yields will need to be doubled due to the existence of minimal new areas of arable land to meet the needs of a double population.
However, if current cultivation practices are applied to this end, doubling the yield will cause an increase in inputs to agricultural production systems, resulting in increased chances of environmental pollution, degradation and loss of non-renewable natural resources.
The search for sustainable land management systems
In order to safeguard agriculture and the world in general for future generations, we need to develop production systems to meet our nutritional and energy needs, which rely less on non-renewable petrochemical resources and more on renewable natural resources. Conservative crop management and harmonization with natural processes are required to achieve the multiple objectives of economic, ecological and environmental sustainable development. The individual goals of sustainable soil management are to preserve soil organic matter, reduce erosion, maintain productivity in harmony with the environment, and make the best use of renewable resources.
However, the creation of sustainable agricultural management systems is complicated by the need to consider their utility for humans, their efficiency in terms of consumption of natural resources and their ability to maintain such a balance with the environment that is favorable to humans, but also for most other species. Our efforts to develop appropriate management systems require the application of integrated methods of evaluating their viability. In this respect, soil quality or health ultimately affects human health.
Δρ. Σταμάτης Σταματιάδης,
Υπεύθυνος Εργαστηρίου Εδαφικής
Οικολογίας και Βιοτεχνολογίας του ΜΓΦΙ
Δρ. Χρήστος Τσαντήλας,
Ερευνητής Α’, ΕΘ.Ι.ΑΓ.Ε.ΙΧΤΕΛ Λάρισας