Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

Without healthy soil, there won't be healthy crops. Without healthy crops, there won't be healthy people.
John Moore/Getty Images
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

During a major soil catastrophe — the Dust Bowl — President Franklin Roosevelt told state governors, “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”

Still, we treat our soil like dirt. By growing food and storing carbon dioxide and water, the loam and peat that coats the earth sustains us all. In return, we till it, treat it with chemicals and generally walk all over it.

Without healthy soil, food becomes less nutritious and crops become harder to grow. If the crops aren’t healthy, then the 70 percent of the world’s fresh water that’s used for agriculture will be wasted.

A 2012 study found that about a third of the planet’s topsoil is degraded and that without action, the world will be out of soil suitable for farming within 60 years.

How did it get this way? “Simply put, we take too much from the soil and don’t put enough back,” University of Sydney professor John Crawford told Time.

Enough of what? How can we do better by our dirt?


Rattan Lal, Distinguished Professor of Soil Science and Director, Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, Ohio State University; President, International Union of Soil Sciences; @lal_rattan

Bianca Moebius-Clune, Director, USDA-NRCS Soil Health Division

David Montgomery, Professor of geomorphology, University of Washington in Seattle; author of “Growing a Revolution — Bringing Our Soil Back to Life” and “Dirt;” @Dig2Grow

Jimmy Emmons, Farmer in Leedey County, Oklahoma

For more, visit

© 2017 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.