Written by: Lisa Charles, Executive Contributor at Brainz Magazine.
What happens to the soil, dying ‒ stripped of its topsoil ‒ deprived of its minerals, bacteria, and fungi, all essential to supporting the ecological system? What happens when the soil, soaked in synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and chemicals that kill plant-protecting insects and seep into crops, prevents plants from absorbing vital nutrients and minerals crucial in sustaining human life?
The result is globally degraded soil, incapable of allowing plant life to flourish. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), a third of the world’s soil population is now moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, compaction, nutrient imbalance, pollution, acidification, water logging, and loss of soil biodiversity. Some estimates find 1 billion to 6 billion hectares of land degraded. Essentially, the soil and the life that flows from it are at a critical stage.
Plant growth connects soil health to human health. Humans rely on healthy soil’s macro and micronutrients. Without those nutrients, human health suffers. By the second half of the 20th century, heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes have become common life-shortening health conditions. There has been a dramatic rise in chronic diseases and autoimmune disorders. Asthma, digestive issues, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia are on the rise, and the future prognosis for these ailments does not appear promising.
Since plants and crops are essential to human nutritional needs, degraded soil places our health at significant risk. More information about health and supplements can also be found at the Clinical and Herbal Innovations website.
Healthy Soil – The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Soil health is the “capacity of soil to function as a vital living system to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental quality and promote plant, animal and human health.” It governs all processes that regulate the existence of life. The soil’s five ingredients: minerals (45%), water (25%), organic matter (5%), air (25%), and microorganisms, are essential to the resilience and regulations of ecosystems. One teaspoon of soil holds over 20,000 organisms, such as algae, fungi, and other bacteria.
Soil has numerous attributes. It is essential to growing plants, providing them with important micro and macronutrients through cycling and transforming the earth’s elements. Soil purifies and stores water in the plant root zone and, in the process, recycles nutrients while filtering pollutants. It regulates gaseous emissions like (Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous oxide (N2O) into the atmosphere while providing an ideal habitat for the soil microbiome and the raw materials that offer a variety of life-sustaining pharmaceuticals.
Soil provides the environment that fosters the creation of life-giving plants. That environment fortifies plants with essential vitamins (A, D, E, K) and minerals (Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Zinc, and Iodine), along with (Calcium, Phosphorous, Sodium, Chloride, and Potassium) which are transferred directly through the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Soil can thrive where carbon transformations; nutrient cycles; soil structure maintenance; and the regulation of pests and diseases are allowed to occur.
What the Body Needs and the Soil Gives
The human body is an incredible instrument that relies upon proper seeding to support its advanced operations. From the unique demands of the brain to every organ and every system within the body, it needs vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients to function. When they are present, the body can thrive. When they are absent, disease and illness can take up residence.
Micronutrients are part of nearly every process in your body. Moreover, specific vitamins and minerals can act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against cell damage associated with a variety of diseases. Other minerals and vitamins allow our bodies to prevent chronic diseases, cancers, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatism, metabolic syndrome, impaired cognition, and depression.
Given the pandemic and its global health impact – a well-functioning immune system is critical. In addition to supporting almost all bodily functions, our immune system needs vitamins A, C, D, E, and zinc to function at optimum levels. The soil is critical to unleashing remedies to countless diseases through its medicinal properties, some geared to enhance the body’s natural immune system.
Soil and human health are inextricably intertwined. When you improve soil health, you advance human health. But as the state of the world’s soil diminishes, our path toward chronic illness and death is shortened.
The Soil Health Disruptors
While many reasons are associated with the current state of the world’s soil, the misuse of farmland during the planting process and the overuse of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals are devastatingly impacting our soil’s overall health.
The Tilling Disruptor
With a third of the world’s soil experiencing reduced food-producing capacity, food production is now a serious challenge, especially with mounting pressures on agriculture to feed an ever-growing global population. In preparation for crops on farms across the world, machine-driven tillage occurs, wherein there is soil digging, stirring, and overturning. Repeated tilling has had a devastating global impact on soil biodiversity and long-term viability.
Tillage reduces the soil’s water-holding capacity while reducing infiltration rates, increasing erosion, and making the land infertile. The tilling process disrupts the soil structure, killing vital bacteria and fungi that live there and leaving it vulnerable to being washed away. A piece of its natural ecosystem is destroyed every time soil suffers the ravishes of tillage. Once the soil is compromised, it can take years to recover.
The Synthetic Chemical Disruptor
Toxic residue often fills most bags of fertilizer. Exposure to synthetic, inorganic fertilizers depletes plants’ nutrient levels while causing various health complications in humans, including urinary, liver, and kidney difficulties. An independent research effort tested bags of synthetic fertilizer in 12 states and found the following heavy metals: lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, barium, chromium, nickel, beryllium, and dioxin. These fertilizers and heavy metals release harmful carcinogenic chemicals, and some find their way into our blood system.
Healthy soil contains billions of microbes that work steadily to break down organic matter and feed plants. They kill insect pests and fight off plant diseases. Without microbial action, plants would not be able to receive crucial minerals nor utilize them in plant growth. Synthetic chemical fertilizers inhibit, kill, and alter this natural microbial activity, leaving plants deprived of vital nutrients (such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur), affecting the plant’s metabolism.
The introduction of synthetic fertilizers stresses the plant, rendering it deficient in nutrients. Stressed plants attract diseases and pests, leading farmers to use chemical pesticides or fungicides to remedy the pest situation. The consequence is a reduced nutrient-dense food supply and an increased human illness rate.
The Healthy Soil Solution
The road to addressing soil depletion is through regenerative farming practices and soil management systems that focus on the location of plant growth, the topography of that location, and the type of plant grown. The overall purpose is to maximize the development of nutrient and mineral-dense living soil while limiting soil contamination of toxic substances.
The no-tilling farming methods that utilize specialized equipment and crop rotation can aid in mitigating soil erosion. In considering topography, cover crops planted in the off-season aid in replenishing soil at the root level, while organic composting / nutrient-rich mulching help nourish the soil during planting season. Utilizing carbon-based fertilizers foster natural pest management. These regenerative practices offer a way to remediate and restore our soil’s health.
The solution lies in conserving the soil’s organic matter with its diverse microbiome, enhancing its ability to produce nutrient-enriched crops while mediating the global carbon cycle.
In addition, we must adopt limits on using synthetic fertilizers and chemicals on farms worldwide. Synthetic fertilizers leach into the soil with heavy rains creating pools of overly dense nutrient-enriched water that stifle plant growth (eutrophication). These fertilizers alter the soil’s structure and block the soil’s ability to absorb vital nutrients. Successful crops come from soil filled with organic material and a balance of minerals. Synthetic fertilizers destroy that balance and strip the soil of its capacity to produce life-sustaining plants.
Finally, farmers must plant soil-healing plants. Cannabis and hemp plants can assist in the soil remediation process. These plants are active in “… decomposing crop waste; stimulating the growth of roots and buds; fixing and dissolving nutrients; aiding in the biological control of harmful fungi, bacteria, insects, and mites; and helping to protect plants against water or other stressors.” These healing plants can also assist in removing toxic chemicals from our soil and offer a future of delivering plant-based medicinal solutions from the soil direct to the patient. The possibilities are endless.
Real change begins when we treat our soil as a living organism. When we honor this most precious natural resource, we enhance the health of both plants and humans. Only then can we ensure our food systems’ sustainability, quality, and security, thereby transforming human health.