Why we need to understand soil microbial health and gut microbial health
I came across a book review for The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health in The Guardian this weekend. I have started reading the book and will summarize my thoughts in another blog when I am finished. However a couple of points I agreed with in The Guardian article – The scientists whose garden unlocked the secret to good health:
- Understanding how microbes turned compost into a smörgåsbord of other nutrients for the growing plants, can help in understanding how microbes influence human health, medicine and agriculture.
- Fertile soil needs a mix of weathered rock fragments and decaying organic matter.
- There are more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the planet and they are everywhere, in water, air, earth, as well as inside our bodies and on our skin. Without them we couldn’t digest food, plants wouldn’t grow and there wouldn’t be enough oxygen for us to breathe.
- There is an inextricable link between human health and the microbes within us, just as there were between plant health and the microbes in the soil.
- Our overuse of antibiotics and highly processed foods are destroying these vital microbes, just as soil microbiota is being wrecked through overuse of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
- Agriculture and medicine are the hallmarks of humanity and we are failing to realize what they could do for us if we better supported the microbial foundation.
This was further driven home in a recent article in Cell (Zeevi et al. 2015) tracking the blood sugar levels of 800 people over a week suggests that when different people ate identical foods they often reacted in different ways. General dietary recommendations given to the entire population may have limited efficacy. This research showed that the gut microbiome (ecosystem of trillions of bacteria living inside our body) is influenced by what we eat and affects our response to food.
I initially began my academic research into the influence of remineralization on nutrient quality of the food we produce. Looking at this as purely a geochemical problem was ineffective, and I began to understand the importance of microbes on the release of these nutrients as well as general soil health. My work was continued, looking at the interaction between microbes and minerals on organic soils. The project investigated the impacts of a suite of certified organic nutrients applied to pasture used for beef grazing during the conversion phase to a certified organic system. The project also investigated interactions between soil microorganisms and ground rock fertilizers in pasture soil to determine the potential mechanisms for release of nutrients from rock surfaces in the soil environment (Carson et al. 2012).
If you would like to discuss how to improve your soil’s health, or own health for that matter, through mineral and microbe nutrition, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.