Last reviewed 20 November 2023

World Soil Day (WSD) is held on 5 December each year to emphasise the importance of healthy earth and encourage the sustainable management of worldwide soil resources.

Why is soil important? Some 95% of our food comes from soils which provide 15 of the 18 naturally occurring chemical elements essential for plants.

However, agricultural output must increase by 60% by 2050 to meet global food demand. Some 33% of soils are degraded, but sustainable soil management could deliver circa 58% more food.

This is why the 2023 theme, “Soil and water: a source of life”, follows on from “Soils: where food begins” in 2022.

Soil is remarkable stuff, but much of it is under threat. There are more living organisms in a tablespoon of soil than people on Earth. This miniature world is made up of organisms, minerals and organic components which, through plant growth, provide food for humans and animals.

Soils need a balanced and varied nutrient supply in appropriate amounts to remain healthy. Unfortunately, agricultural systems lose nutrients with each harvest, and without sustainable management, depleted fertility leads to nutrient-deficient plants.

Soil nutrient loss is a critical global food security problem. The level of vitamins and nutrients in food has fallen dramatically in the last 70 years. It is now estimated that two billion people worldwide suffer from a lack of micronutrients known as “hidden hunger” which is hard to detect.

Ironically, other soils have such a high nutrient concentration that they create a toxic environment for plants and animals, pollute the general environment and cause climate change.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations provides campaign material and additional information.