The role of soil health in enhancing human health will receive increasing attention in the next several years. That increased focus will affect three main legs of agriculture – research, business and production. Panelists discussed the current and future effects of soil health at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, held March 20-21 in San Francisco.
Agricultural research – The Soil Health Institute has listed as a priority establishing and expanding the state of knowledge on relationships between soil health and human health. That priority was described in the “Soil Health Institute Action Plan,” published in May 2017. Interdisciplinary research is needed on how soil-health-management systems influence sustainable nutrition. Those systems impact plant-nutrient availability and uptake as well as the nutritional quality of food, the Soil Health Institute stated.
The Soil Health Institute is comprised of leaders from agribusiness, farms, government agencies and non-governmental organizations. It identifies and prioritizes gaps in soil-health research and develops strategies for funding that research.
Agricultural business – The increasing focus on soil health is attracting startup businesses and the investment community. As evidence, several entrepreneurs and investors attended the “Monetizing the Microbiome” panel discussion at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit.
William Buckner, president and CEO of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation of Ardmore, Oklahoma, moderated the discussion.
“Healthy soil is becoming more of a focal point in the foundation of creating a healthy ecosystem,” Buckner said.
But currently there are limitations to the agricultural industry’s understanding of the relationships between soil health and human health, he said. Buckner also serves as the chairman of the board of the Soil Health Institute.
Those limitations are resources, technologies and – to a degree – acceptance by land-grant universities to make soil health a greater priority, he said.
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