The soil on our planet, on which tall trees, lush green thickets grow, has an amazing story to tell. The soil holds the ground in shape, it holds plants and trees, it gives us water and it helps us grow our food.
But where did soil come from?
The story of soil doesn’t date back to just a few decades, its story begins much before that.
It begins with a lonely star in the Milky Way galaxy. The star existed on its own till an accident befell its core. And lo and behold, it burst out four solid residues out of its body and millions more scattered around it. The four primary residues revolved around this star and over the years they cooled down eventually to form rocky masses or planets that we now call – Mercury, Venus, Earth & Mars. Other scattered pieces of matter cooled down and revolved around the star in a belt called the “asteroid belt”. The gasses that were released during the explosion fell into pockets of gravity and we now call them the gas giants– Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Over the next billion years or so the solar system slowly settled . On planets like the Earth and Mars many activities began to take place. Asteroids crashed into them, water came by and ice caps formed. The solid volcanic rocks on their surfaces weathered (weathering is the process that results in the gradual degradation of the parent rocks to give rise to soil). The gradual sweep of the winds, the piercing hail storms, and frost cracked the rocks open. It took years till the rocks turned to smaller and smaller particles, till they were finely grounded and dusty. And that was how soil was formed.
Soil is much more than just the uppermost layer of the Earth’s crust- it helps us farm and keep life alive. Soil is present in the moons and the planets that are a million miles away from Earth.
Regolith is a layer of loose, heterogeneous superficial deposits that covers solid rock. The word Regolith is made of: rhegos, which means “blanket”, and lithos or “soil”. Regolith consists of the dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and that are present on the Earth, the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons. The root word for soil is however pedo. Which is why the study of soil is known as pedology. And its formation is called pedogenosis.
The idea of studying the soil in any form may seem to be boring and monotonous but if one wishes to not just live, but also farm on a new land and occupy it, one must be acquainted with the acidity, alkalinity, strength and formation of the soil. Especially, if the new land is not of terrestrial origins. The study of soil also reveals some amazing things that has enabled us to study Martian soil. Regions of the Atacama desert are very close to resembling Martian soil and are being used to conduct research and experiments for colonising Mars.
Jawaharlal Nehru in his book Letters From A Father To His Daughter explained how the glaciers and rivers break down rocks and bring about those bits and pieces of rocks into lower lands that form the glistening smooth round pebbles in the rivers; the alluvial soil in the deltas; and the sands on beaches. His explanation is a very simple, true and is a beautiful aspect of pedology. Soil is the terrain. And the terrain is why we can literally walk on Earth. But pollutants like plastics and radioactive wastes make the soil harmful for all living creatures. Being the smartest beings on the planet, let’s study soil and preserve it for all flora and fauna- from the herbs that grow on the hillsides to the snakes and rabbits that burrow in them and live their everyday lives.
This article was contributed by Edudigm’s student Tisyagupta Pyne.
Letters From A Father To His Daughter – Jawaharlal Nehru