Soil Health For Nutrient Dense Food
Many people can attest that fruits and vegetables grown at home are more delicious than those bought at a grocery store. The same goes for a dish made with ingredients purchased from a trusted vendor at the farmer's market. For those with a developed sense of taste, there is no comparison between conventional produce and high-quality produce grown in healthy soils. The answer is due to a biochemical difference between food that is grown using conventional practices and those using regenerative ones. More specifically, soil health can dramatically change the composition of produce, affecting not only the flavor but also how nutritious it is.
Healthy Soils Result In Healthier Produce
Produce grown on living soils fertilised with compost (or other natural fertilisers) as opposed to synthetic fertilisers are packed with more nutrients, particularly vitamins and micronutrients. It also contains higher quantities of antioxidants and secondary compounds that have beneficial health impacts like natural anti-inflammatory agents, anti-cancer properties, and those that aid in nutrient absorption.
For example, a well-known study showed that organically grown wheat, corn, potatoes, apples, and pears averaged 60–125% more iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium content (Smith, 1993). Another review comparing more than 40 studies of this type showed that organic crops have 20-33% more vitamin C, iron, and magnesium on average (Worthington, 2001). Interestingly, this study also found conventional crops have higher levels of compounds that negatively affect our health such as heavy metals and nitrates. Countless studies have also shown that conventionally grown produce contains high residues of pesticides.
A more recent study (Montgomery et. Al, 2022) aimed to take this information to the next level by considering the direct influence soil organic matter and soil life has on nutrient density. Key findings highlight that supporting healthy soils through a process of regenerative farming practices (also known as Conservation Agriculture) directly influences phytochemical levels in crops – a key compound naturally found in plants with a myriad of benefits to humans and crops alike.
The reason for higher nutrient content is because plants growing in living soils undergo more complex biological activities. Since they are not "bottle fed" readily available nutrients like the conventional counterparts, they develop complex root systems and biological relationships. They work with fungi and bacteria to mine the soils for nutrients. While plants are primarily searching for the most important macronutrients (NPK), their complex root systems also allow them to find the micronutrients often missing in conventional crops.
Meanwhile, organically grown crops also rely on their own phytochemical defense mechanisms to protect them from pests and disease. These secondary defense compounds not only contain important micronutrients but also have many health benefits for the consumer. One study showed beneficial phytochemicals content was 10 times greater in organically grown broccoli and cauliflower compared to the conventional counterparts (Schreiner, 2005). These phytochemicals include polyphenols, carotenoids, anthocyanins, and antioxidants which have all been shown to help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses.
Many Reasons To Choose Living Soil
Whether you're a home gardener, farmer, or just a consumer there are many reasons for consuming produce grown in living soils. It's not only better for the environment but it's significantly better for your health. It is packed with nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals, and also free of harmful compounds like pesticides associated with conventional agriculture.
CropBioLife is an Australian Made and Owned organic input certified solution that supports long-term plant and soil health. It is our mission to support farmers to regenerate soils with sustainable solutions to improve plant and soil health. CropBioLife is proud to support the transition to organic and chemical-free farming across the globe for more than 20 years.
Montgomery, D. R., & Biklé, A. (2021). Soil health and nutrient density: beyond organic vs. conventional farming. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 5, 699147.
Montgomery, D.R., Biklé, A., Archuleta, R., Brown, P. and Jordan, J., 2022. Soil health and nutrient density: preliminary comparison of regenerative and conventional farming. PeerJ, 10, p.e12848.
Schreiner, M. (2005). Vegetable crop management strategies to increase the quantity of phytochemicals. Eur. J. Nutr. 44, 85–94. doi: 10.1007/s00394-004-0498-7
Smith, B. (1993). Organic foods vs supermarket foods: element levels. J. Appl. Nutr. 45, 35–39.
Worthington, V. (2001). Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables and grains. J. Alternat. Complement. Med. 7, 161–173. doi: 10.1089/107555301750164244