The International Year of Soils

Did you know that 2015 has been designated International Year of Soils by the United Nations?

Logo of International Year of Soils 2015

I was a bit slow reacting to this, but then I finally got round to reading a few articles about it. And they got me thinking…


“The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.
Franklin D. Roosevelt





It is under our feet, maybe covered with concrete, gravel or tarmac, but it is everywhere and we rarely give it a thought. Okay, if you’re a gardener then you probably do think about it. You think about it being acid or alkaline, sandy or clay, stony, rich, poor, fertile, compact, organic and maybe a few more adjectives spring to mind. But on a grander scale what about soil erosion or desertification, contamination and pollution, soil degradation, increased salinity, soil management in developing countries…?

The aim of the IYS is to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions

Raising awareness is only the first step. After all, we are all very aware of global climate change and yet our governments still refuse to sign this or that agreement, to invest more in renewable energy, or to reduce subsidies for blatantly environmentally-damaging products and processes. But it is an important step as, at the end of the day, it is down to individuals to bring about change.


“The fate of the soil system depends on society’s willingness to intervene in the market place, and to forego some of the short-term benefits that accrue from ‘mining’ the soil so that soil quality and fertility can be maintained over the longer term.”

Eugene Odum (US biologist known for his pioneering work on ecosystem ecology)


The next stage promoted by this awareness campaign is to educate people about how important soil is for our ecosystems as a whole and how it affects not only our health, but also our economic welfare; sustainable soil management is the practical form of this educational process and must be invested in – worldwide – with the support of government policies and protective legislation.

The EU – after many years of deliberation – still does not have a cohesive soil governance policy, relying only on environmental policies and legislation of member states. Do we need a single policy? Or should soil governance be a regional issue? After all, the effects of poor soil management can have global repercussions…



One square metre of rich soil can harbour as many as 1,000,000,000 organisms, including nematodes, bacteria, slugs, insects etc


I Heart Soil English Image - Small

In Germany I have only been able to find a few events taking place to celebrate the Year of Soils – mostly rather dry-sounding lectures in distant cities.  But I have found a few links to interesting sites. In particular this one:

Please take a look at it. There is a wealth of information here, with some great short videos and a list of things you can do to help;

Buy organic

Garden organically

Eat less meat


Look out for more information and pass it on!

(e.g. Write a blog post about it, however long or short, or simply add a couple of links to interesting articles or videos)


Did you know that earthworms can deposit up to 10 kilos per square metre per year of valuable worm droppings in the soil?

(Neither did I! 😉 )


“We are able to breathe, drink, and eat in comfort because millions of organisms and hundreds of processes are operating to maintain a liveable environment, but we tend to take nature’s services for granted because we don’t pay money for most of them.”

Eugene Odum

Here are some other links. There really is so much information online, so this is just a selection of what I found recently:

Earthworm Society of Britain

Global Soil Week

Video “Support World Soil Day”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The International Union of Soil Sciences

 So, have I got YOU thinking too now? I do hope so!

23 thoughts on “The International Year of Soils

  1. Our soil is so very important as well as the health of our bees! I do wish more people would be aware of the decline to both and be willing to so something about it. Every bit helps, as you’ve said in your post…organic, compost, etc. I hope more people read your post and others and get in the “know” and make changes! Thank you for sharing!❀❀❀❀

    • That was a really interesting article Phil. Thanks for the link! I read somewhere that it takes 2000 years to produce a 10cm layer of soil, and then it can be washed away in a matter of hours. Hectares and hectares of agricultural land were made unworkable after floods just south of here a couple of years ago, but run-off is a really big issue locally too.

  2. Great post and lots of wonderful resources. I’ve read that cattle have done a tremendous amount of damage to the top soil for over grazing. They also consume a lot of soy in order to make beef. Vegetarian diets are hugely beneficial in that regard. I’m happy to say I do everything on your list.

    I also have a red worm ‘ranch’ under way. It’s amazing once you become aware of somthing like this, you can never go back to thinking differently.

    • Thank you Julie. I have added that link to this post. I am also hoping more events and publicity will pop up once the weather warms up and people are outdoors more.

    • It certainly could Amelia. With just the little I have read so far i have already developed a different relationship to the soil in my garden!

  3. Excellent post Cathy, I’m actually at FAO, the food and agricultural organisation in Rome today and there is lots of information about soil. My husband works here so was aware of it being the year of soil but hadn’t mentioned it to me! Typical! Soil is THE. MOST IMPORTANT resource after water. A good thing to remember is NOT to dig, it does a huge amount of damage to soil structure and the organisms that live in it – pretty good for our backs too.

    • Thanks Christina – that is excellent advice too. I have had to adopt the “no-dig” style simply due to my stony dry soil anyway, but with ground cover planting my soil has improved tremendously in the last five years… I just planted a few things in the driest spot and came across so many worms I was really happy! I even considered taking some photos, but I don’t think people want to see pictures of my worms! LOL!

      • When I started the garden here and was digging to remove weed roots I was shocked that there were so few worms but now with added homemade compost and the fallen dead leaves the ground is improving. The compost has hundreds of tiny worms and earthworms are beginning to be present all around the garden. I would be very happy to see your worms!

  4. I’ll have to check out a few of those links, interesting stuff and you’re right that it deserves more attention than we usually give it. O have all year right 🙂 hopefully during the summer I’ll remember to get back to this!

  5. Good post. In this part of the US we have some of the deepest, richest soil in the world. However, it is gradually being washed away – not to mention drenched with chemicals.

  6. I will have to check into this more….I try not to disturb the soil so the microorganisms and earthworms are not disturbed…I know those earthworms are important for my soil…thanks for keeping us apprised of this important topic Cathy.

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