why do we need air in soil

A Parliamentary Committee has its findings into the GovernmentБs approach to tackling a national problem Б that our soils are becoming increasingly unhealthy. We need to take the health of our soils as importantly as we take our air and water quality. Yet 2. 2 million tonnes of soil are eroded each year in the UK. It was estimated in 2011 that the cost of soil degradation in England and Wales is between бе0. 9 billion and бе1. 4 billion per year. Inappropriate soil management could cause a serious negative impact on soil fertility and the ability of some of our most agriculturally valuable land to continue current levels of productivity. Soil is a huge store of carbon, but if degraded it can be a major source of carbon back in the atmosphere. The UKБs peatlands store around 40% of our soil carbon yet degraded peat which has been intensively managed or burnt too regularly releases this carbon. Runoff from degraded peat soils also negatively affects water quality and water companies spend a huge amount cleaning it up. The Government has signed up to an international initiative to increase soil carbon levels by 0. 4% per year, but it is far from achieving the target.


The report calls for Government to:
Take tougher action to tackle land use practices which degrade peat, such as unnecessary burning and draining when crops are absent Be clear on how it will halt and reverse peatland degradation. Farmers are required by law to manage their soils to a minimum standard. Yet this minimum is not enough to stop damaging soil erosion or overall decreased soil health. The CommitteeБs report agrees. Inspection rates usually come too late with damage already having been made before it has been picked up. Soils are part of the whole system and really need to be considered as indispensable as the air we breathe and the water we drink, yet we donБt have a systematic way of determining the health of our soils in the way we do with air and water. How can we farm our soils sustainably if we arenБt properly looking at how weБre managing them? A national monitoring scheme was recommended to Government back in 1996 and yet Government continues to avoid taking responsibility.


The report suggests we could put in place such a scheme affordably with significant benefits. Increase the ambition, scope and effectiveness of the minimum standards Incentivise landowners to restore and improve soilquality and organic matter, and not merely a Бdamage limitationБ approach Take a more joined up approach to ensure that priorities align. None of these recommendations are newБWWT and other organisations have been for many yearsБbut the CommitteeБs report should bring about a new sense of urgency. If the Government is serious about leaving the environment in a better condition, then proper monitoring and management of soil condition needs to begin now. Government Affairs Officer, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Air is often taken for granted as it is invisible and seems readily available to plants above ground. However, even though air is abundant in our atmosphere, there are factors that can disrupt the availability of fresh air to a plant. Stagnant air may be low on vital gases such as oxygen and high on other gases that may harm the plant.


For example, when plants are placed indoors, fresh air is depleted over time and can cause the build-up of toxic gases. A good example of this is a banana wrapped in a plastic bag. When wrapped in the bag, fresh air is depleted quickly. Oxygen levels drop and ethylene is released by the banana. The ethylene causes the banana to ripen faster than it would if it was sitting out in the open. These same types of reactions may happen to foliage plants if not exposed to fresh air, resulting in damaged or dead foliage. Interior plants can accumulate dust, dirt, debris and other accumulates on their leaves. These accumulates can decrease gas exchange on the leaves as well as block much needed light from hitting the surface of the leaves. Keeping plant surfaces clean not only keeps them looking good aesthetically but also helps them perform better. In some interior spaces, air movement is highly limited, causing stagnant air to build-up. The lack of fresh air may be insufficient in oxygen or other gases needed by the plant. It may also be high in gases that may harm the plant.

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