Soil ‘dark matter’ for human health!

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11 January 2016
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In August 2013 a post on the Kemnovation web-site highlighted the importance of a strong biodiversity of microbial life in maintaining soil quality and health comparing it to the essential driving force of  ‘dark matter’ in our expanding universe!

And now a recent article in the pre-eminent journal Nature (Wall et al, 8th December, 2015; Vol 528, p. 69-76) links the importance of soil ‘dark matter’ to improving human health globally.

The authors emphasise that by increasing the natural complexity and robustness of soil ‘dark matter’ using already established practices that disease-causing organisms can be suppressed and conversely strong ecological services can be maintained to supply clean air, water and food.

Proposed agro-ecological practices include:

1). Maintaining soil organic matter because this promotes nutrient availability and water infiltration through improved soil structure;

2). Reduced tillage to retain crop residues as well as cover crop inclusion in rotations;

3). Integrated pest management;

4). Proper fertility management (using the ‘4R’s’ principle mentioned elsewhere in the Kemnovation website) and balancing mineral fertilisers with organic manures;

5). Re-establishing mixed forest areas to promote ‘local’ biodiversity and maintain a reservoir of above and below ground genetic resources for future research.

Finally the group emphasise that “It is time to recognise and manage soil biodiversity as an under-utilised resource for achieving long-term sustainability goals related to global human health”.

Furthermore they conclude that “Maintaining soil biodiversity is connected to all life and provides a broader, highly fundamental foundation for working with other disciplines to improve human health globally”.

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