Nutrient deficiency is a growing problem. A lack of proper nutrition and access to vitamins negatively impacts nearly half the world’s population, causing half of premature deaths around the globe. In order to ensure nutrient-rich diets for people around the world and work toward ending malnutrition, plants must have higher nutrient content. Enhancing the nutrients in the soil will lead to an increase in the nutrient efficiency of all crops, so improving soil health is the first step to improving global nutrition.
The nutrient efficiency of plants depends on the quality of their soil. Soil rich with organisms will break down soil organic matter and organic nutrients in a process called mineralization. Once the nutrients are broken down into simple, inorganic forms, plants can easily absorb and make use of them. Soil organisms also keep nutrients stored within the soil until the plant is ready to extract them. Negatively charged humus, the decayed particles that make up a large percentage of healthy soil, attracts positively charged nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, ensuring that the nutrients are not washed away by water or erosion. In order for nutrients to remain available to plants, the soil must be kept healthy and alive with a variety of soil organisms. Without soil organisms, plants will have to rely on chemical fertilizers for their nutrients.
The need for chemicals in the soil is being reduced with the increased use of biorationals like microbial additives and mycorrhizal fungi. When segmented into fungi and bacteria, microbial additives supplement soil health by increasing the soils’ nutrient availability, making it easier for plants to extract and use nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Mycorrhizal fungi expand plants’ root systems, increasing the number of nutrients the plant can reach for uptake. Enhanced nutrient acquisition increases the nutrient content within the crops when they are harvested and marketed across the globe, increasing the health and nutrition of produce and decreasing the malnutrition crisis.