What Makes the Healthiest Soils Black? – JP031

We’ve stated before that its scientifically true that the healthiest soils are black. We give the how and the what behind the Why.

Asante Sana ߊߛߊ߲ߕߌ ߛߣߊ
edase Paa   ߡߍߘߊߛߋ ߔߊ
Modupe O
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Transcript (automated)


I am Mason Olonade and this is Jìgìjìgì: Africulture Podcast. Here we believe building a healthy soil builds a healthy soul, so we share strategies for how to do both. To do both we ask two questions: How do you grow while you grow Kale, Collards, Tomatoes, and Melons. And why, do you think, the healthiest soils are Black?

Today we ask a 3rd question.:
What makes the healthiest soils Black?

The Former Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states in a video message to participants of the International Symposium on Black Soil, “Black soils constitute the food basket of many countries, and are very important for the world as a whole. Their high organic matter content puts black soils amongst the most productive soils in the world.”

In an article titled “Black Soils are the Key to Achieving Zero Hunger and for Climate Change Adaptation” the F.A.O. writes, “Black soils refers to many different soil types that often contain a moderate to high content in organic matter. This, with carbon as its main component, is crucial to soil health and fertility, water infiltration and retention as well as food production.  As a major carbon storage system, conserving and restoring soils are essential for both sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation.”

Delegates from 18 black soils countries/regions are members of the International Network of Black Soils. They assembled in Harbin, China from September 10-12, 2018 to review the status of Black Soils and the need for the protection and sustainable management in the framework of the International Network of Black Soils. There the delegates signed the Harbin Communique and agreed to advance the science and technology of Black Soils management in the world.

They broadly defined black soils as having the following characteristics:
High organic carbon content as per the following:
>1.2% for cold and temperate
>0.6% for tropical and subtropical regions
– Dark to Black colored surface horizons
– Thickness of Dark to Black Soil surface horizons not less than 25cm
With the following complimentary characteristics:
– A High base saturation >50%
– Strong aggregate stability
– High level of nutrient content

The motto of this network is “Protect Black Soils, Invest in the Future.”

As many guests have answered, organic matter decomposing in the soil, either aerobically (in the presence of oxygen), or anaerobically (without the presence of oxygen, through fermentation) with worms, nematodes, other bugs, fungi, and other microorganisms, or even macro-organisms providing frass, castings, or manure. As these are broken down they become food for other microorganisms who eventually turn them to black bits of soil, the tiniest, unrecognizable, incompressible bits known as humus. The humus contributes to water and air storage, increased soil porosity, and the dark color of the soils may assist in the warming of soils in the early spring.

The exact mechanisms of how humus is formed is unknown but the previously stated is the general consensus.

In the process of growing, plants will secrete exudates, like simple or complex sugars, into the soil to attract microorganisms to free nutrients in decomposing organic matters and, in some cases, unlock mineral nutrition by tapping directly into rock and other small portions of stone.

In response fungi exude another molecule, Glomalin, that acts as the glue of the soil. The glue not only increases the aggregate stability of the soil, but also increases the water holding capacity of the soil.

Glomalin and other macromolecules like humid and filmic acids make the soil to be alive by facilitating the lively transactions and conversations between beings and states of being. Just as a snowflake needs a nucleus to crystallize around to produce their wonderful shapes, soil needs these compounds to produce produce!

The best thing you can do to keep your healthy soils black is to keep them green. Meaning, to always have something growing in the soil.

It is a fine dance that is done growing black soils under the Sun. If the soil is left naked and bare, sunburn happens, annihilating the life built there.

Micro and macrobiota, stored carbon in various forms, like exudates, simple sugars, lignin, and decomposing organic matter all play their part in the rich symphony titled , “What Makes The Healthiest Soils Black?”

Often that answer is given in response to this question, Why do you think the healthiest soils are Black? These are two very different questions. One question asks for a recipe, the other asks for a story, for ideas. Often, especially in science, How or What questions are conflated with Why questions.

For example; I google “Why does lightning and then it autofills happen and I hit enter and google responds with a quote from the UCAR, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research: “Lightning happens when negative charges (electrons) in the bottom of the cloud are attracted to positive charges (protons) in the ground.”

Interestingly, the word “why” isn’t found anywhere on the page, nor on any of the pages listed on the first two pages of the results, unless it is in the asked question. Perhaps the reason why is because they aren’t the same question.
Wikipedia shows on the page Why, three different possibilities for the question why?:
Causality, a consequential relationship between two events.
Reason (argument), a premise in support of an argument, for what reason or purpose.
Grounding (metaphysics), a topic in metaphysics regarding how things exist in virtue of more fundamental things.

By reflecting on Why do you think the healthiest soils are Black, I’ve realized that I’m asking a metaphysical question and usually getting a causal response. This had troubled me for so long. This tripartite ambiguity manifests its amorphous head in many of our conversations and curiosities.

The question that was answered by google is What makes lightning happen, or How does lightning happen, or two out of three of the Why’s of Why does lightning happen.
I think this could be a causal reason for why we ask questions sometimes and the answers are unfulfilling. Perhaps if we have found ourselves, in the past asking why questions in the metaphysical way, but only getting causal responses, or reasoned responses, we may, altogether stop asking questions because we don’t know, or we don’t think we know what question we are asking.

To ground us, many of us have asked, as I have in the past, Why Me? And unbeknownst to us, we are asking a metaphysical question expecting a causal response. Of course the causal response is unnecessary, and unhelpful, “this is th set of sequential behaviors that you performed prior to the fender-bender that led to you being involved in the fender-bender.” That answer is wholly unsatisfactory to the question of “Why me? Two accidents in four months? Why why why why??”

When we label ourselves as having a purple thumb, we’ve previously asked, metaphysically, “Why do I keep killing plants?” We immediately think something is wrong with ourselves, instead of something being wrong with our technique. A better question might be more directly casual, “What are some of the behaviors that I might perform that lead to plants dying?”
What makes plants die?
How do plants die?
How do I prevent myself from perpetuating these behaviors?

In summary, what makes the healthiest soils black is only a part of the reason as to why the healthiest soils are black. Let’s step away from your scientific mind, and into your mind of ideas. Within your mind of ideas, why do you think the healthiest soils are black?

Share Jigijigi with your friends, family, and closely related siblings of the soil. Leave us a 5star review wherever you listen to and we will say then as we say now, Asante Sana, Medase Pa, Modupe O.

Thank you, for listening to Jigijigi, Peace.