On Earth Day let’s remember the importance of soil conservation

Hands holding seedling in soil

More than one billion people in 192 countries ­participate annually in Earth Day activities and events to celebrate ­protecting our environment, making it the ­largest civic observance in the world. Even as they plant trees and participate in other Earth Day celebrations, many don’t realize that soil conservation should be our first priority. Soil is the basis of all ecosystems.

The Soil Conservation Service, now known as the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), was founded 80 years ago to help America’s private landowners and managers conserve and protect their soil, water and other natural resources. NRCS employees across the U.S. daily provide sound science-based ­technical assistance and conservation ­planning, tailored to the land’s ability and the landowner’s goals and ­objectives. Participation is voluntary and there is no fee for the assistance provided. NRCS programs also offer financial assistance to those wanting to install conservation practices recommended in their plan for improving soil health, water quality and quantity, and much more.

Franklin Roosevelt said it best in his 1937 letter to all state governors on a Uniform Soil Conservation Law, “The Nation that destroys its soil destroys itself,” is as true today as it was back then.

With world population projected to increase from seven billion in 2013 to more than nine billion in 2050, it is ­estimated food production will have to rise by 70 percent to sustain this level of growth. Combine that with 14 million acres of U.S. prime farmland lost from 1982 to 2007 to development, improving soil health is going to be the key to long-term, ­sustainable agricultural production.