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Natural Awakenings National

Soil Savers: The Need to Protect Precious Native Topsoils

American states salute their native identities and characteristics in many ways, including official birds and flowers. Home farmers, growers and gardeners can relish that soils also bear official state designations, including New York’s Honeoye, South Carolina’s Lynchburg, Alabama’s Bama, Iowa’s Tama and California’s San Joaquin. All these different types of earth are threatened by widespread use of pesticides, topsoil degradation and other factors that severely hamper their integrity.

The U.N. General Assembly declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils, saluting its many roles, including storing and filtering water, providing resilience to drought, participating in the carbon cycle and being the foundation for agriculture. According to The Land Institute, the loss of topsoil is the greatest threat to our food supply. Planting perennial crops, agroforestry, intercropping and other agro-ecological practices can help conserve soils, preventing erosion and protecting water.

According to, these sustainable practices can help prevent soil erosion:

Reduce impervious surfaces. Driveways, patios and lanais allow precipitation to flow freely over them, gaining momentum in the process, to erode topsoil. Use paving stones rather than a concrete slab to allow water to percolate down into the soil.

Plant a rain garden. As a shallow depression in the yard, a rain garden collects precipitation washing over impervious surfaces, preventing soil erosion and facilitating growth of wetland plants.

Use a rain barrel. Placing a barrel underneath a downspout will collect and store water that runs off roofs, making it available for watering plants even when rain is sporadic. It supports both water and soil conservation efforts.

Consider innovative products. Fiber mulch mats—small, biodegradable particles of wood, straw, coconut and other natural plant materials interlocked with mulch—blend with soil to keep moisture in the topsoil by acting as a top coating. (Review representative manufacturers’ products at and

Find the official soil for each state at

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