Recently, we were tagged in a post on Instagram that showed the following infographic from the Global Soil Partnership:
This infographic really struck a chord with us as we keep reading in the news about vertical farming and the increased use of cheap fertilizers being the key to food security in our future. We couldn't disagree with something more. Soil is a vital component of our environment. Soil plays a crucial role in the production of the food we eat and the overall health of our planet.
The nutrients present in soil are absorbed by plants, which are then consumed by humans, making it essential to maintain the health and fertility of our soil. Unfortunately, conventional agricultural, horticultural, and gardening practices are contributing to soil degradation, leading to a decline in the quality and quantity of nutrients available to plants and ultimately affecting human health.
There are two types of nutrients present in soil: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are required in larger quantities for plant growth. Micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are essential for proper growth and development. Both types of nutrients are necessary for human health, and a deficiency in either can have serious consequences.
One of the main factors contributing to soil degradation is the overuse of artificial fertilizers. While these fertilizers can provide plants with the necessary macronutrients, they often lack micronutrients which can lead to an imbalance in the soil. This can result in a decline in the quality of produce and a decrease in nutrient availability for human consumption. Additionally, artificial fertilizers can negatively impact the environment, including water quality, air quality, and biodiversity.
Monoculture, the practice of growing a single crop in a particular area, is also contributing to soil degradation. When the same type of plant is continually grown in the same area, it can lead to a depletion of nutrients in the soil, resulting in a decline in soil fertility. This can also result in a decrease in the variety of nutrients available to humans.
Climate change is another factor in soil degradation; rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns can affect soil health. Drought and other extreme weather events can lead to soil erosion, while increased temperatures can lead to the loss of water and nutrients from the soil.
The decline in soil health is having a significant impact on human health because the nutrients available in soil are essential for proper growth and development. A lack of micronutrients, such as zinc, iron, and iodine, can lead to deficiencies that can have serious consequences for human health. For example, a deficiency in zinc can impair immune function, and a lack of iron can result in anemia.
There are steps that individuals can take to help improve soil health and the availability of nutrients to plants, even in a home garden setting. One approach is to adopt sustainable gardening practices, such as using natural fertilizers and composting to enrich the soil. Mulching, another sustainable garden practice, can also help improve soil health because it helps retain moisture and suppress weed growth.
The photo above is our Doug Gardens R&D Garden and shows a straw pellet mulch that we trialed. Although the mulch was very effective at stopping weed growth, the allelopathic nature of the straw all but stopped germination of any seeds yet to be germinated.
It was from this experiment that we developed our Doug Soil Conditioning Mulch that both protects and feeds the soil ecosystems of our gardens.
In conclusion, soil micronutrient and macronutrient levels have a significant effect on human health, as the nutrients present in soil are absorbed by plants and subsequently consumed by humans. Conventional agricultural, horticultural, and gardening practices, such as the overuse of artificial fertilizers, herbicides, and monoculture, are contributing to the degradation of soil, leading to a decline in the quality and quantity of nutrients available to plants and ultimately affecting human health.
To address this issue, it is important to adopt sustainable gardening practices, such as using natural fertilizers and applying compost. To ensure the resiliency of future generations, the soils in our fields and gardens should be getting progressively healthier as the years go on, but without action, we risk further soil degradation and thus human health. When sustainable practices are introduced to a degraded environment, soils can flourish and renew the land. Successes like these make us at Doug confident that we can see a world with healthy soil and healthy people.