Soil health is the most important factor when it comes to your nutrition. Did you know that? Everything you eat is dependent on soil health. Whether it’s fruits, veggies, or critters… it’s nutritional content is directly related to soil health.America’s current #1 export is top soil. How can that be? It’s because of our current farming practices. Ridiculous amounts of fertile top soil is washed into our rivers and then out to sea, where it causes other major issues. But why does this matter for your immediate health?
There is an awful lot of life in healthy soil. And it’s this life that makes plant growth possible. The microbiology that exists in soil is what makes the nutrients plants need bioavailable. All that means is that the nutrients are in a form plants can absorb.
Without this healthy soil biome, it’s not possible for life to exist. The best example would be a desert, many of which have been created by humans farming. We don’t have to look to see a recent example in our own country. The dust bowl was a direct result of poor farming practices.
So how does farming cause the degradation of healthy soil? In modern industrial agriculture, there are several ways. But the primary way is tilling. Farmers till because it increases crop yields. The why isn’t the important bit though. It’s the how.
When a field is tilled the soil becomes exposed to air, which kills a large amount of the soil microbiology. All of the now expired little critters then become an extremely dense food supply for crops. They can grow faster and stronger due to the large surplus of food.
The problem is that when a field is tilled repeatedly, the biome never gets to recover. As there is less healthy soil over time, we have turned to other means to continue growing crops in denatured soil. Those means are chemical based fertilizers. Since plants can no longer get what they need from the soil, we apply it directly via spraying.
It’s applied in liquid form so it’s easily absorbed. This often leads to very large, bland produce. If you’ve ever bitten into a bright plump apple and thought, huh doesn’t have much flavor, that’s because the nutrients have been watered down by fertilizer applications.
The other downside to tilling is that once all of that soil is broken up and there is no plant matter to hold it all in place, it’s easily washed away in the rain. The top soil is the healthiest, most fertile soil. And it’s not easily replaced.
Now, that the soil is seriously degraded, the only thing that will grow there are hearty pioneer species. These guys usually have a very short life span and grow in the worst soils. Over time, they repair the soil and restore nutrients and fertility. However, to us they are known as weeds.
The solution for these unwanted space and nutrient stealing freeloaders is to spray them with herbicide. It’s now done wholesale thanks to the advent of GMO crops. Roundup, or glyphosphate, is the chemical employed to kill weeds in fields.
It works by blocking the absorption of key minerals needed for the plant to build healthy cells. Normally this kills the plant. However, in GMO crops it does not. But guess what, the glyphosphate still blocks the absorption of these minerals in the crops! That means now you have multiple levels of nutrient deficiencies in crops grown through modern industrial means. To make things even worse, glyphosphate further disrupts soil microbiology.
The way these problems were addressed in traditional agricultural practices are relatively simple. However, it means that fields can’t be milked season after season. Traditionally about a third of all the fields were allowed to lay fallow, with no crops planted, except a cover crop. Then these fields were grazed by livestock.
The droppings from the livestock carry high levels of healthy bacteria, which repopulate the soil. Grazers and grasslands evolved together, so they are interdependent. The combination of the animals moving around the field, eating plant matter, and pooping out plant matter rebuilds the top soil. But there’s a second benefit. Animals that graze off a healthy field are also healthier and therefore more nutrient dense.
After this year of laying fallow, the field can again be planted. This was referred to as rotating your fields. And a farmer would rotate through which fields were being used each year.
If you look at charts showing the nutritional values of foods from the 1950’s and compare them to now, you will see a scary drop in today’s foods. My point isn’t to scare anyone, but just to make everyone aware of how important good soil is to your health. This nutritional deficiency in food is the major reason I am quickly becoming a proponent of a good daily multivitamin. It’s actually hard to get your nutritional needs from just food anymore!
Understanding how soil affects your health gives you knowledge and power to better choose what foods you put in your body. You are what you eat. But you’re also what your food eats!