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Soil: The foundation of nutrition

submitted by Snipes Farm & Education Center

Lest we forget that we are part of the earth’s ecosystem, if the soil is malnourished, then we too will suffer. We receive our nutrients from the plants and animals we eat (many of which also eat the plants) and the water we drink.

Soil scientists predict that within the next 50 years, if soil is not protected and regenerated, it will be impossible to feed the world’s population, keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, and halt the loss of biodiversity. 

Just sustaining soil is no longer acceptable, we must regenerate it. Over two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.

Soils around the world, including many in the U.S., are suffering from declining nutrient content. Nutrient-poor soils are unable to produce healthy food.

For example, there are 18 soil nutrients necessary for proper plant growth and human health – oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, boron, sodium, silicon, chlorine, sulphur, molybdenum, magnesium – micronutrients like zinc, iron, calcium, copper, manganese, and macronutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.

With the use of pesticides and other chemicals, there have also been radical changes in the microbial content (soil microorganisms) of our soils. The chemicals used in most pesticides kill more than just garden pests; they kill the helpful organisms that live in the soil.

Some chemicals can remain in the soil for years, effectively keeping necessary micro-organisms from working the soil. This affects the microbial balance in our human gastrointestinal (GI) tracts which is thought to have far-reaching effects on our health.

Sustainable soil management practices such as crop rotation, the use of cover crops, minimized tillage, erosion reduction and regularly increasing soil organic matter content through composting to enhance and preserve soil nutrients should be practiced more regularly. 

The soil quality affects the plants grown in the soil; it also affects animal products that we eat – cows, chickens, etc., as they eat plant foods, too.