Soil Health and Sustainability

soil-health-sustainabilityIn recent years, sustainability has become top of mind for consumers and stakeholders in virtually every industry and geographic region around the world. In terms of sustainable agriculture, that means food production systems that support both current and future generations.

Considered by many to be agriculture’s new frontier in agriculture, soil health has a simple and direct correlation to sustainability. As the primary medium in which crop production activites take place, soil represents a common denominator linking the three components of sustainable ag business: People, Planet, and Productivity.

There are three indicators often used to characterize soil quality: chemical properties, physical properties, and soil biology. In many agricultural systems, years of over-emphasis on the chemical and physical properties have resulted in soil that has become depleted biologically. Today’s research teaches that healthy biological activity is not sustainable. For growers, soil health pressure points include limiting erosion (phosphorus loss), nutrient acquisition, and water resource limitations.

It is now known that mycorrhizae are important beneficial fungi that comprise a major portion of microbial life in the soil. These fungi form a symbiotic relationship with an estimated 85% of the world’s plant species, contributing to plant health through an expansion of the root zone and replenishing depleted soils with important contributions to healthy soil structure. In fact, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi is a unique example of a crop input that has both short-term (plant health) and long-term environmental (soil health) productivity benefits.