Living Soil

In any agricultural or horticultural system, nutrients are removed from the system when crops and livestock are harvested and sold. Fertility can be built by either growing, or adding organic matter, but in essence this can be likened to supporting the soil micro-organisms to enable them to form associations with the root systems of plants.

One quarter of all species on Earth live in soils, providing the basis for all food production for the other three-quarters. Like all habitats, soils must provide the full range of conditions necessary for these species to survive and thrive. Until now most of us have not managed soils with their biology in mind, the life in soils ‘requires the same attention as above-ground biodiversity’. Biodiverse soils have potential benefits beyond healthy crops and higher yields: soil has contributed to a number of recent discoveries, including new forms of antibiotics and anti-depressants.
Soil is a combination of minerals, organic matter, air, water and living organisms. None can be taken in isolation, it is their balance that is important.

Author: Jasmine Black

Producer Support

In 2015, Jasmine completed a Ph.D. in soil biogeochemistry investigating molecular carbon on a savannah-rainforest boundary in Guyana, South America. Before joining the Soil Association she lived in Japan, learning different organic farming methods, and taking part in a social project for the largest organic cotton company in Japan. She is now part of the Innovative Farmers programme, working with farmers and researchers to help progress sustainable farming methods. She also helps to coordinate and deliver our exciting calendar of agricultural events, from farm walks and technical seminars, to national conferences and the Future Grower’s program.