Soil health: why you should care!
March 29, 2021
We've all heard the saying "you are what you eat."
This rings true for everything, not just humans. It matters what animals eat and it matters what plants "eat."
People thrive when they eat healthy food AND they get the nutrients which are essential to their bodies. This is the same for everything living on this earth! I know what you're thinking...how does this relate to soil???
Degraded soil can only provide a limited supply of micro and macro nutrients for plants, which in turn diminishes what's available to the critters eating the plants, and finally us when we eat the critters. As seen in the infographic below, over 2 BILLION people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.
What causes soil to become degraded? To answer this, first we have to know what healthy functioning soil looks like.
Let's start by watching this video from National Geographic. It's about trees, (and it seems a little goofy!!) but the same biological principles are at work with all plants.
Pay special attention to the exchange of sugars, water, and nutrients facilitated by the mycorrhiza (1:00-2:07 if you want to skip right to it!)
Like the video says, plants have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Healthy plants provide sugar, and the mycorrhizal network provides the plant with nutrients and water from the soil.
There are lots of ways this cycle can be broken. Many modern agricultural practices are damaging to mycorrhiza (and soil health in general!) including monocropping, extensive tillage, overgrazing, and the spraying of pesticides/fertilizers. Any practice that reduces ground cover, and/or interferes with plants supplying root exudates (sugars) to the soil will negatively impact the soil microbiome.
Microscopic life within the soil (fungi and bacteria) play a huge role in the bioavailability of nutrients. Farms and ranches with healthy soil are producing more nutrient dense food, which also tastes better to their customers.
This is why it's so important to anyone shopping for healthy and nutritious food to know where their food is coming from. Grass finished meat is more nutritious than conventionally finished beef, yes. To take it one step farther, grass finished meat from regeneratively managed pastures will be more nutrient dense than other meat.
If you'd like to learn more about soil health and everything that goes along with it, Regenerative Agriculture Podcast is full of all the newest information!