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The Healthy Soil

The European Union gets a lot of bad press, but on environmental issues I think it is fair to say that the European Green Deal offers some pretty ambitious targets (at least 55% carbon emission reductions by 2030, and a carbon zero EU by 2050). Soils have been highlighted by the EU as an essential part of the Green Deal strategy, setting up the EU Mission for Soils.

To understand healthy soils I want to introduce in Next week's newsletter the Soil Food Web approach, which is a helpful, and easily understandable framework for understanding soil biology. To understand how to create a healthy soil we need to understand the central role of the sun and the plant.. I was educated as an organic farmer to understand that healthy soil = healthy plant = healthy people and planet.This is basically true, but it fails to put enough emphasis on the plant in the centre, as the "motor" for this system. We are blessed on this planet by the ablility of our plant world to photosynthesize energy from the sun, into essential sugars. The plant has a unique role in feeding our soils. In a healthy plant anything from 20-50% of sugars produed are secreted into the soil - this is a huge energy investment by the plant - why bother? The simple reason is that the plant benefits by feeding the living microorganisms in the soil (particularly bacteria and fungi), which in turn provide the plant with a range of nutrients and water (and other services) which the plant alone would struggle, or be unable to access from the soil.

This is the central thesis of the Soil Food Web - more about this next week!

The microorganism-dense, nutrient-rich soil at Zsámboki Biokert (own photo)

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