The Importance of Soils

Soil is the base resource of all food on the planet. It is a limited resource that requires extra care and management to ensure a healthy agricultural sector. Learn about how Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists have been working with producers for the past century to manage and preserve our soils.

This video is the first in a series of five videos on the subject of soil which were produced to celebrate the International Year of Soils.

Help with downloadable formats

Video Transcript

[Light and positive guitar music. Image of turned soil in foreground with tractor in background.]

Text on screen: The Importance of Soil.

[Cut to close up of the seedling of a grape vine. Cut to Ed Gregorich in laboratory.]

Ed Gregorich: Why soils are important is because primarily they produce food. Soils are important for our other ecosystems.

[Cut to image of forest and mountains, then to an image of pasture grasslands with cattle.]

They're important for growing trees, grasslands and so forth.

[Cut back to Ed Gregorich]

We're at the stage where we're seven and a half billion going to 10 billion people, so we have this – and we hear a lot about this – the increase in population.

Text on screen: Dr. Ed Gregorich, Research scientist, Environmental Health, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Cut to image of potato fields seen from the sky.

But what we don't hear about is the fact that there's no more expansion of agricultural land.

[Cut back to Ed Gregorich]

And so that's the point is that we have a limited amount of land available and we have to make the most of that land.

[Cut to image of researcher in field of wheat stubble, holding and inspecting a hand full of soil.]

And that's where our current focus is, focusing in how to make that more productive and how to be more efficient on the land that we have.

[Cut to image of combine harvester, harvesting soy beans.]

Well, the reason it's important for our producers is they're making a living on the land. They're growing crops to feed people but also to make a return on their investment.

[Cut back to Ed Gregorich]

So they're looking at inputs and outputs and they are very much aware of how much they're putting in. Sometimes there's leakage from that system. We talk about leaks to the water, to the air and that's something we work on with our research team.

[Cut to researchers in laboratory working with vials of soil and soil analysis machines.]

We look at management practices that will minimize those leaks so that it's more economical for the farmer but it's also environmentally friendly.

[Cut back to Ed Gregorich]

How the producer gets the information oftentimes comes from our soil database…

[Cut to researcher looking at the Soil Database and map of Canada on a computer that shows the soils of Canada.]

…and it basically is an archive of all the soils across Canada.

[Cut back to Ed Gregorich]

Those soils are then plugged into models.

[Cut to researchers in laboratory doing soil analysis.]

They're looked at to see how they would react in an erosive situation or in a droughty situation. So that then helps for predictive purposes.

[Cut to Ed Gregorich]

The soils in the 1930s were very dry.

[Cut to two images of still, black and white photo of farms in 1930 in Manitoba and Alberta with sand dunes covering the land and a massive dust cloud.]

It was called the dust bowl era, and it was at that point that the government recognized they had to do something; and…

[Cut to Ed Gregorich]

… they actually set up a branch to study soil conservation.

[Cut to image of farm and road in Saskatchewan from 1930 with soil piled high along fence and man looking at camera.]

And from that point forward we've been working on those issues…

[Cut to Ed Gregorich]

…of how to manage the soils to prevent erosion, to prevent degradation.

And that work continues today.

[Cut to researcher in laboratory studying soil under a microscope. Cut to image of dry and cracked soil.]

If we did have a really severe drought…

[Cut to Ed Gregorich]

…I don't think it would have the impact that it did back then.

[Cut to researcher in laboratory studying soil samples.]

You know, almost 80 years of research, we've got some measures and techniques that are in place that prevent that.

[Cut to images of large truck, tractor and spreader, spreading manure on a farm field.]

We've got to work for producers, focusing in on helping them to be productive, efficient and…

[Cut to Ed Gregorich]

…to manage our system in such a way that's economically viable for them, but environmentally sustainable.

Narrator: Learn more about soil sciences in Canada with our other videos on the chemistry, physics, biology, and nutrients in soil.

[End.Logo for 2015 International Year of Soils. Text on screen: www.fao.org/soils-2015 ; #IYS2015]

Text on screen: Modern. Innovative. Growing. Discover other agricultural innovations at www.agr.gc.ca

[Light guitar music fades out.]

Text on screen: Canada. Copyright. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2015)

Date modified: