Healthy soil and its role in sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation

The Unsung Hero

June 20244 min readAgriculture, ESG, Impact

In today's world, where climate change and environmental degradation are pressing concerns, healthy soil emerges as an unsung hero in the fight for sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation. Often overlooked, soil health plays a pivotal role in sustaining ecosystems' productivity, diversity, and environmental services. Explore the significance of healthy soil and how it positively impacts climate change mitigation, resilience to climate change, biodiversity, and the production of nutritious food. responsAbility: championing soil health Healthy soil is an indispensable asset for sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation. Its impact on carbon sequestration, climate resilience, biodiversity, and food production underscore its crucial role in preserving our planet's health and balancing our ecosystems. Emphasizing and nurturing soil health is a collective responsibility to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future. Recognizing the crucial importance of healthy soil, responsAbility takes concrete actions to promote sustainable agricultural practices and soil health:

  • We invest in agricultural enterprises committed to sustainable practices, actively working to improve soil health and climate resilience

  • Through technical advice and support, we assist these agricultural companies in their efforts to enhance soil health

  • We diligently measure and monitor the improvements in soil health for relevant investments in climate-smart agriculture companies

Understanding the foundations: soil health and soil organic matter 1. Soil plays a pivotal role in mitigating climate change Soils are the largest terrestrial carbon sink, reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It comprises organic plant matter, containing carbon that plants absorbed from the atmosphere during their lifetime. If not for soil, this carbon would re-enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO₂), the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Soil plays a central role in climate change mitigation, as they are both a carbon sink and – if depleted – a source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). By enhancing soil health, we can maintain and even increase the soil's carbon storage capacity, further contributing to climate change mitigation efforts. 2. Soil enhances resilience to climate change In drought years, organically managed land can achieve yields up to 40% higher compared to conventionally managed land. The connection between soil carbon and organic matter ties soil carbon directly to soil health. Higher levels of soil carbon improve the absorption of nutrients, making them more readily available for plant uptake. Soil carbon also contributes to improved water infiltration and soil structure, facilitating root growth and fungal activity.Healthy soil makes agricultural production more resilient to climate change as it is less affected by excessive rains, landslides, draughts, and other adverse climatic events. This contributes to food security and farmer income stability. Thus, investing in soil health is a key strategy to ensure food production remains viable even in the face of changing climatic patterns. 3. Soil boosts biodiversity A teaspoon of soil may seem insignificant, but it contains up to a billion living organisms. Soil is a vibrant ecosystem in itself, hosting a quarter of the planet's biodiversity. Billions of earthworms, insects, fungi, bacteria, and other invertebrates live in soil. These creatures use the soil’s organic material as food and work together to break down organic materials into minerals and nutrients that support healthy growth for the entire ecosystem, including crops and animals. Healthy soil plays a pivotal role in stimulating biodiversity, supporting the delicate balance of life within the ecosystem by providing a favorable environment for small and large animals. 4. Soil fosters the growth of nutritious food 95% of our food is directly or indirectly produced on our soil. Therefore, the quality and quantity of soil directly influence the nutritional value of the food we consume. Healthy soil, rich in nutrients and organic matter, ensures that crops receive the necessary sustenance to grow and develop properly, producing nutritious food for our consumption.