What have we been doing to our soils?

Declining Soil Health

Soil is not just a growing medium, it is a living system and is home to billions of living organisms. These organisms keeps our soils alive. Living soils nurture and nourish plants as intended by nature by providing a healthy medium to grow roots through a steady supply of nutrients. It is generally misunderstood that pests are introduced from external sources only. Pests may be naturally present in the soil as part of the living ecosystem or may be introduced through air, water, cultural practices, infected seeds or planting materials. In most cases, pests and accompanying species such as predators (natural enemy to harmful pests), parasites (harmful pests), decomposers, competitors and pollinatorsoccur naturally as part of the ecosystem and performa wide range of natural processes, and thus contributing to keeping the soils ecosystem in a natural balance.

Indiscriminate use of soluble and acidic synthetic fertilisers can be detrimental to soil health as excess nutrients that are not taken up by plants lead to the increase in food supplies for pests to thrive. This can result in changes that can cause one or more types of soil pests to become temporarily dominant over others and consequently lead a breakdown in the natural balance of the soil ecosystem. These imbalances in the soil ecosystem may create an upsurge and outbreak of soil borne harmful pests such as fungi, bacteria, nematodes and other species. These harmful pests in turn can contribute to the weakening of the immune system leading to a loss of the natural defence mechanism of plants. Furthermore this makes crops more susceptible to diseases and thus increasing the likelihood of losing plants or crops to these pests.

Farmers everywhere are profit driven and often respond by seeking extra protection by securing themselves against losses through the incorporation of chemical pesticides in their fertilization regimes and thereby further impairing the natural balance of their soil ecosystems. This further disrupts the population of predators (the natural enemy of harmful pests) and beneficial microorganisms, causing outbreaks of secondary pests. As a result, another application of a different pesticide may be required and, in an intensive farming culture, this vicious cycle repeats itself in leading to a situation where the soil system is completely out of balance.

There is a growing concern over the potential impact of pesticide residues in food crop on human health and the environment. Excessive use of pesticides also exposes farmers to serious health risks and also has negative impacts for the environment, crop yields and soil health. Often, less than one percent of a pesticide applied actually reaches the target pest, and the rest contaminates the air, soil and waterways and food crops that people consume.Today, our farms and the food on our plates could be full of toxins from the excessive use of these harmful pesticides and synthetic substances in the name of "High Tech Farming".