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Community the world s gone mad  you need mud  no iphone | Upload General

The World’s Gone Mad! You Need Mud, No iPhone

by: Sharai Hoekema
the world s gone mad  you need mud  no iphone | Upload

For a while, we seem to have gotten our priorities all wrong. We are so eager to get our hands on the latest pair of designer jeans or the newest iPhone or iPad that we consider it to be a primary necessity for life.

You Need Mud: The Basic Necessity For Life

We take most other things for granted, but when push comes to shove, we will not be able to breathe in our Calvin Klein shirt, nor can we drink from the latest Samsung model. We need other things for that. Water, oxygen. Gravity. Things that have always been there, quietly supporting life.

Mobile, mud, leaves

Yet there is one basic necessity for life that is so obscure most will fail to mention it in this context, while we all use it daily, in one way or the other. It is the soil beneath our feet. The mud that some of us rummage around in to produce food or just a pretty looking garden that we enjoy working in, while the rest of us benefits from what we reap - and sow - from it.

Recommended: Smartphones Not Sustainable: Designed To 'Downgrade Humans'

The whole concept of mud has gotten a pretty bad rep. Ever since you were a kid, chances are your mother would yell at you if you would dare to enter the house with muddy boots. The family pet who suddenly felt like rolling around in that pile of dirt would undoubtedly be confined to the mudroom - see what is happening in this word? - until he’d gotten a lengthy shower.

Mud: The Rich Ecosystem Beneath Our Feet

There is much more to the soil, though. Unsurprisingly, one of its synonyms is earth. The Earth is our home, mainly made up of - yes - earth. There is so much going on beneath our feet that we are not aware of - and the processes that keep on replenishing and reviving the soil are nothing short of miraculous. Take moles, for instance, digging tunnels - and not just for fun. They also effectively aerate the underground.

Similarly, the earth happens to be the catch-all for everything dead and dying - both animals, humans, and plants use it to harbor their diseased. All tiny critters that we associate with ‘dirt’ are playing a crucial role in cleaning and composting those dead things, including worms, mites, and nematodes. On an even more microscopic level, tardigrades are seeking out bacteria for their lunch.

Recommended: New Foodscape Alternatives Gets Lots Of Attention In The Netherlands

Yet the earth also holds us in place, quite literally so. Trees and plants are merely the tips of the iceberg when you look at what goes on underneath the surface. Their roots go on and on, in an endless search for water and firmly locking its occupant in place. On top of that, the earth is our most crucial bet for figuring out what has happened in the past. Almost like the growth rings on trees, the soil beneath our feet consists of layer after layer of history.

Graph layers of soil

Loose Matter Waiting To Be Decomposed

At the top, there’s a layer of ‘loose matter’ on top of the soil. Dead plants, animals, tree branches and leaves, it all falls to decompose. Decomposing is a beautiful process in and of itself, requiring the perfect soil underneath. Moist, but not too moist, so that the small beings in charge of composting can survive but will not drown.

Recommended: Regenerative Agriculture: Its Full Potential (Part 3 of 3)

Topsoil: Only Enough To Last Us Sixty Years

The next layer is the topsoil. This is where the actual decomposition happens when billions and billions of microorganisms are feasting on the organic matter fed to them. Organisms like earthworms, arthropods, nematodes, fungi, and bacteria will be amongst the many inhabitants. These play a lead role in creating nutrients that enrich the soil. 

It is not hard to see how the quality of dead loose matter plays a vital role in determining the quality of the soil - and thus, the overall agricultural prosperity of areas. Take the ancient Egyptian civilization, one whose riches were primarily built on the wealth of the land. The Nile River flooded every year, replenishing the soil in the process. Other societies in dry areas, including sub-Saharan Africa, were not as lucky.

Recommended: Water War Brewing Over New River Nile Dam: Egypt, Ethiopia

One can already see a big problem here. Those areas lucky enough to have stricken the right natural balance between moist and organic waste are thriving, while those that aren’t are - well, not. And in this era of explosive population growth, we are eager to get our hands on more fertile land to feed those who rely on it. We are actively pushing the limits of what we can take, ‘borrowing’ land from forests or other sacred nature areas.

tractor, agriculture land, areal view

In many countries, actions like deforestation were taken that destroyed nature’s fragile balance, with the topsoil unable to perform its function as it is blown away from steep, now bare, hillsides. This topsoil ends up downhill, where it clogs up the irrigation systems and existing farmland. The result? A drastic reduction of usable farmland and the inevitable hunger that follows suit.

In those areas, topsoil is a hot commodity, yet at the same time, it is becoming increasingly rare. Estimates are that we only have enough topsoil left to last us some sixty years while creating new topsoil will take at least 500 to 1000 years. The math just does not add up.

Topsoil As The Base For Billions Of Micro-Organisms

There is more to this topsoil than it being a place where dead organisms are decomposing, and new organisms can blossom. It is also the home for billions and billions and many, many more billions of micro-organisms. Most of the species that call our Earth home spend their lives under the ground, with some 10,000 to 50,000 species living in a single gram of soil. Miraculous, isn’t it?

Micro organism soil
Colony characteristic of Actinomyces, Bacteria, Yeast, and Mold on selective media from soil samples for study in laboratory microbiology

There are the bacteria, along with their relatively similar appearing siblings of the archaea. Both groups of species may only be single-celled but are resilient as they come. And although many confuse the two, they split ways - biologically speaking - billions of years ago. They are some of the most essential building blocks of our world, performing functions that are a prerequisite for life. They fuel our underground, helping us get rid of waste and preparing it for proper flourishing and growing of plants and much of the produce that we enjoy daily.

Recommended: Virus, Bacteria, Fungi: Tiny Organisms Will Save Us Globally

The Unknown Formula Of Bacteria And Archaea

Many of those functions performed by bacteria and archaea are now attempted to be recreated by scientists in labs worldwide, to create some kind of synthetic gene that is programmed to do the same thing. This would be great for nations that are now faced with the immediate danger of absent or minimal topsoil, which has rendered whole patches of land barren. Yet it seems much harder than you may think to find this magic ‘cure’, as science has only had minor successes in doing so. 

At the same time, these very same bacteria and archaea are changing as well - and not for the better, from our point of view. Through the use of reclaimed water for irrigation purposes and fertilization, these soil bacteria are exposed to water laced with, amongst others, antibiotics. And that is quite a big deal, as this leads to us finding and creating so-called ‘superbugs’ that are antibiotics-resistant.

Recommended: World’s Population 10 Billion By 2050: Bugs For Dinner?

Not just dangerous for crops, plants, and trees, but also animals and our health. If this soil, full of superbugs, happens to be located right underneath a playground, one can only imagine what the consequences would be.

Fungi And The Symbiotic Relationship With Plants 

Then, there are fungi. Something that shares the bad rep of dirt, as many people associate it with something that’s gone wrong, something rotten. Not that surprising, considering its genetic make-up. While most animals on our planet internalized their digestion, fungi are happy to keep it all external, actively shedding their digestive enzymes.

They play a significant role in the decomposing of matter. Just leave a perishable food item for too long, and you will surely find that they have found it and covered it in a typical hairy, goosebump-inciting fur. In this same way, they help to get rid of any dead matter, while helping underground life flourish. Their unique characteristics make them capable of transferring nutrients from one plant or tree to the other. 


                                                                     Mycorrhizal Fungi Animation

 

Similarly, fungi form symbiotic relationships with plants, feeding them with the nutrients that they need, and helping them fend off potentially dangerous diseases. Plants that are ‘linked’ with fungi are healthier and thriving. At the same time, the soil as a whole is similarly improved through higher porosity, aeration, and water retention - while allowing nutrients to flow freely. Once again, a miracle of Mother Nature herself.

Let The Soil Take Care Of Us

The soil is not just essential for keeping our environment healthy. It can play an equally important role in keeping ourselves healthy. If we continue to mistreat and disregard the dirt beneath our feet, the chances are that the massive contamination of the soil will lead to a variety of diseases, disorders, and superbugs that are all out to bring us down.

2 children play in mud

Similarly, as we have quite literally lost touch with the soil beneath our feet, we become even more vulnerable. In the past, as children played outside a lot more and more people used to work in farming or a garden, our bodies got used to the tons of microbes in it. Our immune systems were so busy with the soil microbes they regularly encountered, that they grew used to - and resistant to - a wide variety of them. Now that this has mostly fallen away, we have fallen prey to a range of allergies and health problems, like asthma. 

As a rule of thumb, the dirtier your kid is, the better their immune system will be. Playing in the dirt is not just fun; it is essential for their health and the health of the planet as a whole—sufficient reason for all of us to get our hands dirty more often and invest in healthy soil.

Recommended: Agrivoltaics Mutually Beneficial: Food, Water And Energy

Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below.
We try to respond the same day.

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Click on 'Register' or push the button 'Write An Article' on the 'HomePage.'

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The World’s Gone Mad! You Need Mud, No iPhone

For a while, we seem to have gotten our priorities all wrong. We are so eager to get our hands on the latest pair of designer jeans or the newest iPhone or iPad that we consider it to be a primary necessity for life. You Need Mud: The Basic Necessity For Life We take most other things for granted, but when push comes to shove, we will not be able to breathe in our Calvin Klein shirt, nor can we drink from the latest Samsung model. We need other things for that. Water, oxygen. Gravity. Things that have always been there, quietly supporting life. Yet there is one basic necessity for life that is so obscure most will fail to mention it in this context, while we all use it daily, in one way or the other. It is the soil beneath our feet. The mud that some of us rummage around in to produce food or just a pretty looking garden that we enjoy   working in, while the rest of us benefits from what we reap - and sow - from it. Recommended:  Smartphones Not Sustainable: Designed To 'Downgrade Humans' The whole concept of mud has gotten a pretty bad rep. Ever since you were a kid, chances are your mother would yell at you if you would dare to enter the house with muddy boots. The family pet who suddenly felt like rolling around in that pile of dirt would undoubtedly be confined to the mudroom - see what is happening in this word? - until he’d gotten a lengthy shower. Mud: The Rich Ecosystem Beneath Our Feet There is much more to the soil, though. Unsurprisingly, one of its synonyms is earth. The Earth is our home, mainly made up of - yes - earth. There is so much going on beneath our feet that we are not aware of - and the processes that keep on replenishing and reviving the soil are nothing short of miraculous. Take moles, for instance, digging tunnels - and not just for fun. They also effectively aerate the underground. Similarly, the earth happens to be the catch-all for everything dead and dying - both animals, humans, and plants use it to harbor their diseased. All tiny critters that we associate with ‘dirt’ are playing a crucial role in cleaning and composting those dead things, including worms, mites, and nematodes. On an even more microscopic level, tardigrades are seeking out bacteria for their lunch. Recommended:  New Foodscape Alternatives Gets Lots Of Attention In The Netherlands Yet the earth also holds us in place, quite literally so. Trees and plants are merely the tips of the iceberg when you look at what goes on underneath the surface. Their roots go on and on, in an endless search for water and firmly locking its occupant in place. On top of that, the earth is our most crucial bet for figuring out what has happened in the past. Almost like the growth rings on trees, the soil beneath our feet consists of layer after layer of history. Loose Matter Waiting To Be Decomposed At the top, there’s a layer of ‘loose matter’ on top of the soil. Dead plants, animals, tree branches and leaves, it all falls to decompose. Decomposing is a beautiful process in and of itself, requiring the perfect soil underneath. Moist, but not too moist, so that the small beings in charge of composting can survive but will not drown. Recommended:  Regenerative Agriculture: Its Full Potential (Part 3 of 3) Topsoil: Only Enough To Last Us Sixty Years The next layer is the topsoil. This is where the actual decomposition happens when billions and billions of microorganisms are feasting on the organic matter fed to them. Organisms like earthworms, arthropods, nematodes, fungi, and bacteria will be amongst the many inhabitants. These play a lead role in creating nutrients that enrich the soil.   It is not hard to see how the quality of dead loose matter plays a vital role in determining the quality of the soil - and thus, the overall agricultural prosperity of areas. Take the ancient Egyptian civilization, one whose riches were primarily built on the wealth of the land. The Nile River flooded every year, replenishing the soil in the process. Other societies in dry areas, including sub-Saharan Africa, were not as lucky. Recommended:  Water War Brewing Over New River Nile Dam: Egypt, Ethiopia One can already see a big problem here. Those areas lucky enough to have stricken the right natural balance between moist and organic waste are thriving, while those that aren’t are - well, not. And in this era of explosive population growth, we are eager to get our hands on more fertile land to feed those who rely on it. We are actively pushing the limits of what we can take, ‘borrowing’ land from forests or other sacred nature areas. In many countries, actions like deforestation were taken that destroyed nature’s fragile balance, with the topsoil unable to perform its function as it is blown away from steep, now bare, hillsides. This topsoil ends up downhill, where it clogs up the irrigation systems and existing farmland. The result? A drastic reduction of usable farmland and the inevitable hunger that follows suit. In those areas, topsoil is a hot commodity, yet at the same time, it is becoming increasingly rare. Estimates are that we only have enough topsoil left to last us some sixty years while creating new topsoil will take at least 500 to 1000 years. The math just does not add up. Topsoil As The Base For Billions Of Micro-Organisms There is more to this topsoil than it being a place where dead organisms are decomposing, and new organisms can blossom. It is also the home for billions and billions and many, many more billions of micro-organisms. Most of the species that call our Earth home spend their lives under the ground, with some 10,000 to 50,000 species living in a single gram of soil. Miraculous, isn’t it? Colony characteristic of Actinomyces, Bacteria, Yeast, and Mold on selective media from soil samples for study in laboratory microbiology There are the bacteria, along with their relatively similar appearing siblings of the archaea. Both groups of species may only be single-celled but are resilient as they come. And although many confuse the two, they split ways - biologically speaking - billions of years ago. They are some of the most essential building blocks of our world, performing functions that are a prerequisite for life. They fuel our underground, helping us get rid of waste and preparing it for proper flourishing and growing of plants and much of the produce that we enjoy daily. Recommended:  Virus, Bacteria, Fungi: Tiny Organisms Will Save Us Globally The Unknown Formula Of Bacteria And Archaea Many of those functions performed by bacteria and archaea are now attempted to be recreated by scientists in labs worldwide, to create some kind of synthetic gene that is programmed to do the same thing. This would be great for nations that are now faced with the immediate danger of absent or minimal topsoil, which has rendered whole patches of land barren. Yet it seems much harder than you may think to find this magic ‘cure’, as science has only had minor successes in doing so.   At the same time, these very same bacteria and archaea are changing as well - and not for the better, from our point of view. Through the use of reclaimed water for irrigation purposes and fertilization, these soil bacteria are exposed to water laced with, amongst others, antibiotics. And that is quite a big deal, as this leads to us finding and creating so-called ‘superbugs’ that are antibiotics-resistant. Recommended:  World’s Population 10 Billion By 2050: Bugs For Dinner? Not just dangerous for crops, plants, and trees, but also animals and our health. If this soil, full of superbugs, happens to be located right underneath a playground, one can only imagine what the consequences would be. Fungi And The Symbiotic Relationship With Plants   Then, there are fungi. Something that shares the bad rep of dirt, as many people associate it with something that’s gone wrong, something rotten. Not that surprising, considering its genetic make-up. While most animals on our planet internalized their digestion, fungi are happy to keep it all external, actively shedding their digestive enzymes. They play a significant role in the decomposing of matter. Just leave a perishable food item for too long, and you will surely find that they have found it and covered it in a typical hairy, goosebump-inciting fur. In this same way, they help to get rid of any dead matter, while helping underground life flourish. Their unique characteristics make them capable of transferring nutrients from one plant or tree to the other.   {youtube}                                                                      Mycorrhizal Fungi Animation   Similarly, fungi form symbiotic relationships with plants, feeding them with the nutrients that they need, and helping them fend off potentially dangerous diseases. Plants that are ‘linked’ with fungi are healthier and thriving. At the same time, the soil as a whole is similarly improved through higher porosity, aeration, and water retention - while allowing nutrients to flow freely. Once again, a miracle of Mother Nature herself. Let The Soil Take Care Of Us The soil is not just essential for keeping our environment healthy. It can play an equally important role in keeping ourselves healthy. If we continue to mistreat and disregard the dirt beneath our feet, the chances are that the massive contamination of the soil will lead to a variety of diseases, disorders, and superbugs that are all out to bring us down. Similarly, as we have quite literally lost touch with the soil beneath our feet, we become even more vulnerable. In the past, as children played outside a lot more and more people used to work in farming or a garden, our bodies got used to the tons of microbes in it. Our immune systems were so busy with the soil microbes they regularly encountered, that they grew used to - and resistant to - a wide variety of them. Now that this has mostly fallen away, we have fallen prey to a range of allergies and health problems, like asthma.   As a rule of thumb, the dirtier your kid is, the better their immune system will be. Playing in the dirt is not just fun; it is essential for their health and the health of the planet as a whole—sufficient reason for all of us to get our hands dirty more often and invest in healthy soil. Recommended:  Agrivoltaics Mutually Beneficial: Food, Water And Energy Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about agriculture? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage.'
Stay Updated on Environmental Improvements And Global Innovations