Extreme Drought Highlights the Importance of Healthy Soil

California’s extreme drought is making international headlines and causing worry among farmers who must adapt or be forced out of business entirely unless climate conditions improve.

Unfortunately, California is not alone. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), at least 40 states expect to see some levels of freshwater shortages in the next decade.

Humans don’t yet have the capability to control how much it rains or snows. However, they do have the ability (if not always the willingness) to innovate and adapt when it comes to conserving water and using it more wisely.

Another factor for consideration is soil management. Healthy, well-managed soil retains moisture. Hard, compacted soil does not. Moreover, when rain does eventually fall on “dead” soil, it takes any pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that have been applied to it and dumps them straight into our lakes and streams.

Defending Against Drought

One of the best defenses against drought-like conditions is to cultivate rich, healthy soil filled with billions of beneficial microbes that include bacteria, fungi, algae, nematodes, anthropods and earthworms.

As the “worker bees” of the soil, these microorganisms break down organic material and improve the structure of the soil that sustains them. To live and multiply, they depend on a steady supply of rock minerals.

Unfortunately, most of the world’s soils are woefully deficient in rock minerals. Next to a violent volcanic eruption (not the preferred delivery method), the best way to ensure that there are enough minerals in the soil is to apply rock dust. And while almost any type of rock dust will improve the soil, all-natural volcanic basalt is the best for delivering a wide array of essential minerals, including: calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), and manganese (Mn).

In addition, the naturally occurring silicon in volcanic basalt helps develop bigger and stronger root systems in plants. These roots eventually die, turning into even more organic matter for the soil. The more organic matter in the soil, the better its physical structure—with air passages and channels that allow water to penetrate the earth’s surface without producing wasteful runoff.

There is no doubt that the California drought situation is dire, and that changes in climate around the world will force us to rethink our old ways of planting and irrigation. Hopefully, it will also lead to better soil management practices to ensure that we don’t waste the precious water that we do have.