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Soil, Food, Health, and the Environment

With health concerns gripping nations globally, now is the moment to take a step back and look at the root cause of many problems we face today. Many people believe that the rise in autoimmune diseases, cancers, allergies and memory disorders are partially due to an improvement in health diagnostics, yet the clear answer lies in our food supply and the ground beneath our feet — soil health.

Carrots from healthy soilGrowing concerns over health and wellness correlate directly into deficits in our soils. When beneficial minerals and nutrients are not available to plants via the soil, it ceases to exist in our food, which translates into nutrient deficient people that are more susceptible to illness. The top deficits include:

  • Zinc deficiency causing poor immune function.
  • Low selenium levels contributing to a body’s cells’ inability to process and protect against many diseases (selenium is required for a healthy immune system and must be obtained through dietary sources; it is also essential for the synthesis of numerous proteins; up to 1 billion people are thought to be affected by low dietary selenium intake).
  • Calcium deficiency contributing to muscle spasms, low bone density, and hypocalcemia.
  • Low Sodium levels contributing to gastrointestinal distress and improper functioning of nerves and muscles.
  • Low phosphorous levels causing weak bones and muscles, joint pain, nervous system disorders, and obesity.
  • Declining nutrient value in cornmeal

Nutrional Comparison of Cornmeal

Courtesy of: The Declining Nutrient Value of Food | Bionutrient Food Association

These rising health concerns directly correlate to the nutritional value of our food.

A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. A similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal, found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.

Courtesy of Scientific American

Understanding our soil is essential to promoting human, plant, animal, and climate health. The process of guaranteeing our food supply while maintaining the integrity of food quality requires fertilizer inputs. The crux of the problem resides in where to put these inputs, and how much and which type of inputs to add. This requires testing. The cost to farmers and level of granularity with which these tests are performed are important pieces to solving this dilemma that affects our food, our environment, and our health. Fertilizer prescription maps require more granular data to improve nutrient value of the crop and assist in environmental controls, while also making production of nutritious crops profitable for the grower. Persistence Data Mining has developed Soilyticstm nutrient mapping to empower farmers with better diagnostics to guarantee healthy food for livestock and people.

Many people believe that the rise in autoimmune diseases, cancers, allergies, and memory disorders are partially due to an improvement in health diagnostics, yet the clear answer lies in our food supply and the ground beneath our feet — soil health.

Advanced technology-powered soil analytics can process data in a more efficient mechanism than the conventional chemical wet lab system to analyze nutrients in the soil. Farmers and agronomists can obtain rapid soil analysis through the sensors at an ultra-low cost for what we believe is a more efficient, soil analysis experience. The ability to grow more with less inputs is part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). A focus on healthy soils promotes nutritious food but must be done with an understanding of the microbiome in the soil and how that influences the plant and human and animal health.

Soil zinc deficiency in the world

Showing the relation between soil zinc deficiency and human zinc.(Courtesy of researchgate.net)

Current acceptance of artificial nutrient supplements in food and amendments in agricultural inputs requires advanced research and education. For example, eating foods that have a strong relationship for absorption is needed for both humans and plants. Often these relationships or synergistic effects are not taken into consideration. One of these relationships required for a plant to process nitrogen is sulfur, which must be present in the correct ratio to aid in plant development. The same exists for phosphorus with zinc. With zinc deficits in soils across the globe, it is easy to trace the problem of why humans are experiencing increased incidences of zinc deficiency.

When beneficial minerals and nutrients are not available to plants via the soil, it ceases to exist in our food, which translates into nutrient deficient people that are more susceptible to illness.

We might be growing more food than has historically been achieved, but to get the same nutrients that our ancestors derived we are required to eat 2-10 times more to meet our daily requirements, which can lead to empty calories creating obesity problems. The solution to these problems is better knowledge of our soil to prevent the effects of applying the wrong fertilizer in the wrong amounts and wrong places.

Potatoes

It is essential to human survival for us to understand our soil and our relationship to nature. A healthy planet will promote our longevity if we promote the balance of nature: air, soil, and water. It is in the best interest of our health and climate to promote healthy soils through increased nutrient management for our food and our environment.

Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy Planet.

Dr. Kim Fleming has more than 20 years’ experience in Farming and Agronomy. He led research efforts at multiple universities, and many of the Precision Ag concepts and technologies he developed have become part of commercial platforms. He has worked in industry for the last 10 years, and his success ... Read more
Penelope Nagel is founder and President of Persistence Data Mining, and a 9th generation farmer with a passion to establish technology for sustainable farming. She is an experienced program manager, founder, strategist, and loss mitigation analyst.
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