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Global Soil Health

Modern agriculture has come to rely on a variety of practices that often have harmful effects on soil health. This includes the use of synthetic chemicals, disturbing and compacting the soil, and monocropping. Fortunately, as the agriculture industry considers the future of our resources and world, focus is shifting back to soil health. 

If our soil is to continue producing healthy, high-yielding crops, we must invest in it now. Soil is the foundation of sustainable, regenerative agriculture, and new practices, technologies, and products are making high yields and healthy soil possible. 

What is Healthy Soil? 

Healthy soil can be measured by five main characteristics. It will: 

  • Support plant and animal life. The health of an entire ecosystem depends on soil.
  • Filter and buffer potential pollutants, including municipal and industrial by-products and atmospheric deposits. 
  • Regulate water, controlling where snowmelt, irrigation, and rain go and stay in the soil. 
  • Cycle nutrients. Critical nutrients are stored, utilized, and cycled in healthy soil for use by the plants. 
  • Provide physical stability and support for root systems and human structures. 

Unhealthy soil doesn’t support successful crops, and the health of soil can be largely attributed to its microbiome. 

What is the Soil Microbiome? 

You’ve probably heard of the gut microbiome in humans—the network of little microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts—helping digest our food, produce vitamins, and protect against other bacteria. The microbiome of soil is very similar. 

The soil microbiome is hugely diverse and critical for crop production, healthy ecosystems, and even fighting climate change. It’s made of organisms like nematodes, bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, and more. These organisms cycle and recycle nutrients, decompose organic matter, and help with resistance to stress. 

Soil Health and Synthetic Chemicals

Synthetic pesticides pose a major threat to the soil microbiome. A 2021 study published in Frontiers in Environmental Science showed that in 71% of cases studied, synthetic pesticides killed or harmed soil microorganisms. While many of these products are being banned and deregistered, there are still a number in use affecting our soil. 

Over-fertilization is another concern for soil microbiomes. When too much fertilizer is applied, the elevated salt concentration in the soil can harm key soil microorganisms. Other consequences of over-fertilization include nitrogen leaching, loss of carbon in the soil, and increased soil compaction. 

How Do We Improve Soil Health? 

We are losing healthy soil every day to human activities like development and construction, making what arable land we have left all the more precious. There are few practices growers can adopt to safeguard this finite resource: 

  • Decrease soil disturbance, including fewer passes with equipment and no-till practices. 
  • Maximize soil cover. Growing a crop each year and leaving behind stubble in the fall protects the soil from erosion and regenerates nutrients. 
  • Rotate Crops each growing season. When the same crops are planted in a field year after year, specific key nutrients become depleted. It also leads to more weed and insect problems.
  • Fewer synthetic chemical applications. The more synthetic fertilizers and pest control agents used on the soil, the more the soil microbiome is harmed.

Each of these practices have long-term benefits. Nutrients are replenished, organic matter grows, the ecosystem of plants and animals benefits, and pest control management becomes easier.  

MustGrow’s Biotechnology: Improving Soil Health 

MustGrow’s mission is to provide effective alternatives to the synthetic pest controls and fertilizers that can be harmful to the soil. We’ve conducted trials that showed our biotechnologies aren’t harming the soil where they’re applied. 

Our biocontrols and biostimulants continue to show a positive effect on the soil microbiome, in turn positively affecting the plants and soil. We utilize natural mustard seed extracts in our technologies, which returns organic plant material to the soil and feeds the microorganisms as it breaks down. We know how important it is to invest in soil—it is our greatest resource and the foundation of feeding the world. We are proud that our biotechnologies leave the soil better than before. 

You can follow our progress here, and dig into the science behind our biotechnologies in our blog