The human gut and soil contain billions of the same active microorganisms. Chronic diseases can manifest from the bad gut bacteria we build up over time. These include conditions such as cancer, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease, amongst others.
Food is how we inoculate and maintain the microbes in our bodies. Yes, there are bad microbes, but the good microbes are the ones that have been deeply ignored. Bad microbes and good microbes start in the soil where our food is grown.
Fresh produce is essential to any healthy human diet, leading to overall human health. But the reality is that fresh produce needs to be grown in an environment that has equally as many health benefits to humans as plants. It’s, therefore, important to understand the relationship between microbes found in soil and those found in the human gut.
This starts with understanding soil health and what makes up a healthy soil microbiome. If the soil used to grow fresh produce contains undesirable microbes or toxins, these will inevitably carry through to the final product people consume.
How Soil Health Impacts Human Health
There is an increasing fresh produce demand as the global human population grows. This means that more and more farmers are searching for ways to optimize their agricultural practices to increase crop yield and, therefore, their production. With the ever-changing farming technologies and agricultural input product development geared toward producing more and coping with climate change, we cannot allow the fundamentals of soil nutrients to fall out of focus.
Nearly 30% of human deaths can be caused by gut microbe disorders. Microbes that are toxic to humans are inoculated through the human diet and what people eat. This does, however, also include microbes that are nutritious and beneficial to human health. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that fresh fruits and vegetables are grown in soil that is nutrient-dense so that these healthy microbes can ultimately be ingested by people to improve gut health.
Soil Nutrients That Benefit Humans
The state of the soil is the first step in ensuring the plants and produce farmed is what determines the ultimate nutrient output of what farmers sell to the consumer. Ag input manufacturers such as fertilizer and agrochemical producers have a tough challenge to overcome in the aspects of sustainable and successful farming they choose to focus on in their products. Often, a product is so focused on increasing crop yield that fundamental nutritional microbe makeup is forgotten.
In fact, studies have shown that there has been a significant decrease in the healthy microbiome diversity in the human intestine largely due to the increase in urbanization and industrialization of agriculture as well as the evolution of the modern lifestyle.
However, new technologies like DNA sequencing and Eco computing capacities can provide information about the microbes in agriculture. This can help ensure that agricultural practices sell products that provide the healthy microbes needed for a healthy human gut. In-depth soil analysis and projected impacts on human gut health are becoming more and more practiced as farming continues to evolve.
What Can Consumers Do?
Fruit and vegetable producers will listen to the consumer, so it's worth researching what microbiomes will benefit your gut health. Each field and parcel in which a crop is grown, has a unique soil microbiome. Ensure you understand where the fruit and vegetables you buy come from and under what circumstances they were grown.
Certain management practices can impact soil biodiversity, which makes up diverse communities of microorganisms. Farms that receive a large amount of human intervention can negatively impact the microbiome.
For example, one practice that can result in less soil biodiversity is heavy chemical inputs and mechanical intervention in comparison to a farm that uses more sustainable practices like transitioning to biological inputs and biostimulants, no-till, cover cropping, or other agroforestry practices. Heavy and overused chemical inputs and fertilizers are potentially toxic to humans and can result in health effects, depending on the quantity and ways in which a person is exposed.
Nowadays, grocery stores are requiring food operators to disclose the product’s origin, so the consumer can understand exactly where their food was grown and under what circumstances, empowering sustainable agriculture. Becoming aware of how soil health directly impacts your health is the first step in making agricultural practices more beneficial to the consumer.
Farmers can understand how their farming practices affect a healthy soil microbiome with one biological soil test. BeCrop® Test provides a user-friendly report on soil nutrient cycling, health, and biodiversity in any field.