Maintaining healthy soil aids our water supply!
Healthy soil is not compacted but is absorbent. Organic matter in the soil, microbes and plant material, is made of carbon. That, along with the minerals present, creates an aerated structure for the soil. The dead matter is food for the plants and structurally acts like a sponge. If land has lots of plant cover and healthy soil structure, rain soaks into the ground instead of creating runoff and erosion. The plant-covered surface area holds water longer and doesn’t evaporate as quickly. In drought conditions, therefore, because of the plant cover, the soil doesn’t overheat causing above-normal evapotranspiration. Healthy soil acts as a reservoir and conserves water.
As an added bonus, healthy soil mitigates climate change. The carbon taken out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis from the leaves of the plant mixes with water and creates food for the microbes through the plant’s roots. Multiple plant species create many different microbes in the soil. The plants, above ground and below, as they die off, create soil structure providing for more life. The carbon in the dead microbes and plant material is very durable and long-lasting. That carbon will still return to the atmosphere, but very slowly over many decades rather than the immediate release of carbon when the land is plowed, which binds with oxygen, causing CO2 buildup, leading to global warming. Currently, it is thought that more than half of the excess carbon presently in the atmosphere comes from industrial farming and other unhealthy farming practices.
In conclusion, promoting and advocating for healthy soil practices should be an integral part of planning for a resilient water future in the Middle Rio Grande.
For more information on promoting healthy soil stewardship in the state, see the Healthy Soil Working Group’s website.