Celebrate the International Year of Soils

iys2015For a few years, we’ve called attention to World Soil Day as a December reminder of how important soil is to life as we know it. That was last year. The importance of soil is expanding. “In addition to a one day reminder, the entire year of 2015 will hereby be known as the International Year of Soils,” says Illinois State Conservationist Ivan Dozier. Dozier notes that his agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has been helping secure our nation’s precious soil resources for decades but this kicks things up to a higher level. ”It’s not just talk about soil health and cover crop trends. Leaders and decision-makers across the planet realized and have made a renewed commitment to soil and its critical role for life everywhere. This is a planet-wide wake-up call.”

The designation was made official by the General Assembly of the United Nations and endorsed by the Global Soil Partnership and hundreds of other organizations, agencies, cooperators, and International partners. The goal is to generate a new momentum for intensive international cooperation and more effective regional and national action to reverse soil degradation and make sustainable soil management the new norm.

Will_Terrill“In Illinois, we have farmers, landowners, and partners in Ag industries who know the true value of the natural resources we are privileged to have here. Many other nations see the value and the need to do more. And many are just discovering the need for wiser use and policies and priorities that protect life as we know it for the long term,” Dozier said. “That’s what we hope this year-long event can offer to everyone, everywhere.”

According to Dozier, everyone can play a role—farmers, homeowners, contractors, developers, builders, city or state leaders, corporate teams, school officials—everyone can positively impact the soils on their piece of the planet. Protect the soil. Improve the soil. Cover bare soil. Plant a tree. Save an earthworm. Every action big or small can help.

It is responsible for nearly all life on the planet, but soil rarely gets the respect it deserves. On December 5, this living and life-giving resource is finally getting its day—across the state and across the globe. And now it’s getting 364 more days to drive the idea home.

Three years ago, NRCS launched an awareness and education campaign titled “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil.” The campaign is helping more farmers discover the basics and benefits of soil health—and to encourage the adoption of soil health-improving practices like cover cropping, no-till and diverse crop rotations.

To learn more about the international event, visit http://fao.org/globalsoilpartnership/en/ or to www.nrcs.usda.gov to “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” on your Illinois farm or private land. And be sure to check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqGKwWo60yE