Why it’s Important to Connect Soil Health and Human Health Science-
Article by Dr. Steven Shafer
Soil quality has long been defined by measurable physical and chemical attributes. Recent advances in technologies and methods for soil biology have allowed the field of soil health to become increasingly meaningful. In fact, we know that food security, achieved when people have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2003), is inextricably linked to the health of soil.
Soil health is defined as the “continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans.” Healthy soils contribute to ecosystem functions sustaining plant and animal productivity and biodiversity, filtering contaminants and thus maintaining or enhancing air and water quality, and supporting human health.
The phrase “supporting human health” offers a hopeful connection to feeding the growing world population. Experts in the agriculture, food, human and veterinary medicine sciences see major benefits from an improved understanding of connections between soil health (and the farming practices that promote it) and human health. These connections may occur through the impact of land management, crop and livestock production and commodity processing on nutritional and environmental quality, food safety and the human microbiome.