Soil health – the unsung reason to compost

by Dan Israel, Head of Marketing

The health of the world’s soil is in decline.  By some estimates, if people continue on our current pace, we will deplete all of the Earth’s topsoil in around 60 years.  The United States is losing soil ten times faster than its natural replenishment rate.  Without topsoil, we can’t grow food.  It’s a critical challenge that we face that needs answers, and soon. 

Soil health is the central focus of the new movie “Kiss the Ground,” released on Netflix last month.  We strongly recommend investing an hour and half of your time to watch this movie. 

The movie presents a sobering assessment of how we’ve gotten to this point.  The book, by the same name, contains a helpful action plan with steps that each one of us can take to be a part of the solution.  Composting your food scraps is one part of that action plan.  

Processing food waste into finished compost helps return the nutrients to the soil and has other dramatic beneficial effects on soil health.  Compost can hold five times its weight in water, which helps plants retain moisture and means less watering.  In urban areas, compost added to the soil filters out 60-95% of stormwater pollutants.  What’s more, compost sequesters carbon, and helps offset the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.  (See this great graphic from ILSR for details of some of these facts.)

Crops benefit from finished compost applied to the fields where they grow.  Compost promotes new growth and increases crop yield. It has also been shown to boost plant immune systems.  And, compost replaces the need for artificial fertilizers, resulting in healthier foods for us all to eat. 

In short, composting your food scraps – and applying your finished compost to your garden – helps to address the critical challenge of soil health.  Yet another great reason to start composting today.

(Photo used with permission of USDA-NRCS under a Creative Commons license.)

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