Topsoil is the outermost layer of soil that naturally resides on the earth’s surface. It is typically between 5 – 8 cm deep, but can be up to 0.5 - 1 m in depth in some places.
British Sugar's Bury St Edmunds factory showing the winter stockpile under construction
This top layer of soil is becoming an increasingly endangered commodity in the world. It is disappearing much faster than it can form, since it can take anywhere from 200 years to as much as 1000 years for a single inch of the nutrient-dense material to form but it is being depleted at a much faster rate. This can eventually become an environmental catastrophe as the soil is necessary for plant growth.
- An estimated 2.9 million tonnes of topsoil are lost each year in the UK alone (DEFRA 2015).
- Approximately 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in soil.
- Topsoil provides all the nutrients required for successful plant growth.
- Typically soil consists of 45% minerals, 25% water, 25% air and 5% organic matter.
- Topsoil is filled with organic matter, microorganisms and nutrients that grass and plants need to thrive – the essential nutrients in the soil dissolve in water, making it easy for roots to absorb.
- Much of the organic matter in topsoil is derived from decaying plants and anything else organic that dies, such as insects, worms, leaves, etc. Once dead, the decay allows the nutrients in the previously living matter to be returned to the soil.
- The amount of sand, clay and silt is what gives different soil types their various textures. Most soils are a mix of all three. There are more microorganisms in a handful of soil than there are people on earth.
- TOPSOIL greatly reduces flood risk by storing up to 9200 tonnes of water per acre. In total that’s about 0.01% of the Earth’s total water.
- Soil acts as a filter for underground water, filtering out pollutants.
- Worms enrich topsoil by feeding on organic material in the soil and converting it into nutrients for plants. As they move through the soil it becomes more absorbent and better aerated too.
- Soil is at the bottom of the food chain, yet it is the cornerstone of life on earth.