Good Soil Health Practices Boost Both the Quality and Quantity of Food

Scientists, executives and farmers at the 2018 Ag Biotech Summit focused on soil health agreed on its importance to plant, animal and human health.

Among the major points they made were:

  • Soil health is a holistic concept that includes chemical, physical, and biological properties. 
  • Enhancing soil health by using no-till and cover crop practices to increase its carbon content and reduce erosion and run-off, has significant positive effects on crop yields and the quality of produce. 
  • Increasing the organic matter in soil via no-till and crop cover increases the availability of water to plants and keeps moisture in the soil longer. By building soil carbon content, it significantly increases crop yields while taking carbon out of the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming.
  • Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from, how it is produced, processed, and transported. Communication is vital. That means both researchers and the food industry need to be increasingly transparent about all of those factors.
  • Soil health is not just about increasing crop yields. “Soil health quality is going to be a big factor in your produce quality,” said Sanjun Gu, Ph.D., extension specialist in horticulture of N.C. A&T State University. Several speakers, particularly the farmers, elaborated on how good soil health practices improved the taste and quality of produce.
  • The increasing consumer interest in locally grown food, organics and farmer’s markets opens up new sales channels for farmers who use good soil health practices to grow higher quality produce.
  • Increasing crop yields on the ever shrinking amount of available arable land is absolutely necessary to feed the world’s burgeoning population.
  • “Farmers don’t want a course on microbiology. They want to farm,” said Diane Wu, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Trace Genomics. “They care about the functional aspects” of soil science. 
  • Numerous speakers noted that before farmers adopt new technologies, they want to know why it works, how much it will cost and if it will help them make a profit. They ask, “What’s in it for me?”
  • If you can’t show a farmer how good soil health practices will benefit them, they’ll show you the door. Farmers care about consistent, year after year results
  • While it is not a new idea, soil health is important to human health. (Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”)
  • Interdisciplinary scientific collaboration is necessary to advance soil health and food science. “It involves far too many factors for any one group to solve,” said Terry Stone of Agrinos. “We need to get people who have not traditionally worked together to do so.”
  • Investments in agriculture and soil health research are lower than they should be considering its importance. Non-government funding and public-private collaborations are necessary to fill the gap.
Allan Maurer, NCBiotech Writer
Thu, 02/22/2018 - 16:57