Soil

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Soil Health

 Healthy soil is crucial to plant health. Soil microbes have a symbiotic relationship with plants, as plants provide sugars/exudates to microbes and microbes make nutrients bio-available for plants, plants then provide nutrients to animals and plants and animals provide vital nutrients to humans.Healthy Soil - Healthy Plants - Healthy People.
Plants produce complex organic molecules like sugars that they exude from their roots to encourage the microorganism populations that comprise a healthy soil. In turn, microorganisms, by way of their complex ecology, release minerals that are already in the soil so that they are bio-available to plants. Microorganisms such as fungi with their extensive network of filaments, deliver water and nutrients from a wider area than the plant roots cover. These symbiotic relationships between microorganisms in the soil and the plants above are natural processes and will maintain themselves, provided they are not destroyed by excessive chemical or mechanical disturbance. 

This natural process of productive plant/soil symbiosis can be fast tracked by inoculating the soil with the biological agents that a soil lacks, and reducing chemical fertiliser and pesticide use. Other factors which limit microbial and plant growth, such as salt, compaction, or extreme lack of available nutrients, can be overcome by the addition of appropriate biological agents and, in some cases, nutrients.

Soil biological methods are much more effective in the long term than applying NPK in an inert form, which is a short-term fix. We believe it’s better to use the living 'nanobots' to mobilise the NPK for you.

What Is Soil

Soil is the network of interacting living organisms within the earth's surface layer, which support life above ground that is plants and animals, including humans. 
This ecological definition of soil held by HSA is shared by a growing number of soil scientists. It differs from the traditional view held by soil scientists who see physical factors such as climate, topography and underlying (pre-weathered) rock material as key soil components. In the view of traditional soil scientists, soil is merely a porous medium for holding water and keeping plants upright. The role of microorganisms is seen as a little understood, and certainly not as important as climate, geography and soil chemistry.
  1. Traditionally, soils are classified on 3 dimensions:
  2. The nature of the parent material (granite, limestone, basalt etc.)
  3. The size of inorganic particles (sand, loam, clay etc.) and;
  4. The strata (horizons) in which a sample is located
Soils are tested for the presence or absence of specific nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen, sulphur, selenium etc.) and excessive toxins, particularly salt and aluminium. Significantly, the level of organic matter, which is a key indicator of biological activity and water holding capacity, is generally not measured.
An understanding of soil biology enables the physical factors of soil to be managed. In addition to microbes, plant roots are an active part of soil biology. As is well known, legumes can be used to add nitrogen and make it available for subsequent crops. Other plants directly exude substances from their roots, which through the processes of microbial life in the soil, frees up otherwise unavailable phosphorus and other nutrients. This process can also immobilise toxins such as salt.

Soil is a community of living organisms just as a forest or a coral reef and consists of living communities. The physical substrate that supports the soil community is of secondary importance to the network of plant, animal and microbes. Microbial activity controls and manipulates the chemistry of the soil, not the other way around. 

Living organisms in soil also ultimately control water infiltration, mineral density and nutrient cycling. Evolution has equipped these organisms to work with plants to apply the laws physics and chemistry for their own ends. 
It is not generally realised that the total biomass below ground (that is the dry weight of all living plant, fungi and microbial material) exceeds the above ground plant and animal biomass it supports. 

Interactions between living organisms (including humans) create soil. An ecosystem is made up of a mosaic of patches with each patch consisting of a relatively stable mix of plants and animals. Patches have sharp edges and distinct communities of soil microbes. Rainfall, climate, soil type, underlying parent rock material and other physical characteristics on either side of the patch boundary are generally the same. Understanding microbial interactions and their differences on the edges of patches is the key to understanding soil and plant growth. What grows above and how it grows is dependent on the relationship it has with what grows below. 

Sustainable agriculture is about managing the plant, animal and microbial mix to meet human needs. The living organisms below ground govern the rate of nutrient cycling and are the motor that drives bio-productivity. Sunlight and photosynthesis are merely the energy source - the fuel injection system. The engine that drives land-based life is the living soil. 

Carbon In Soil

Soil carbon takes three distinct forms:
  1. Living carbon in the form of microbes, fungi, plant roots, nematodes, earthworms etc.
  2. Labile carbon comprising decomposing (dead) plant and animal material that is in a state of transition
  3. Fixed carbon consisting of stable compounds such as humates and glomalins
Sequestered carbon comprises of the fixed carbon plus the total living biomass. Increases in bio productivity that result in a total long-term increase in living biomass are a net carbon sink.
Fossil carbon is the remains of living organisms that have become trapped in geological formations in the form of coal, oil, and natural gas. The by-product of burning these fossil fuels (mainly carbon dioxide) is accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans. In the atmosphere it exacerbates the greenhouse effect and causes global warming, and in the oceans it creates a weak acid that is having a deleterious effect on a number of organisms.
HSA believes that all current emissions from burning fossil fuels, and the legacy emissions release into the atmosphere can be potentially absorbed by plants and sequestered either as living carbon or fixed carbon (see above).

The Importance Of Soil

Food quality is central to human health and wellbeing. 
Soil health determines food quality, land and water resources, plus social and environmental welfare. This includes food security, the need for fibre for fuel, clothes and housing, renewable energy sources, clean water, pure air, biodiversity and environmental quality. These factors all depend on soil health. They also determine a nation's long-term economic viability and its competitiveness in world markets. 
Australian soils are ancient and fragile. The plants, animals and microorganisms that have maintained them for millennia in the past are stressed mainly through the introduction of European plants, animals and farming techniques. Symptoms of these stressors include areas of erosion, compaction, acidification, rising salinity and most importantly, loss of organic matter and vital nutrients. 
Despite these problems, the productivity on Australian farms has continued to improve mainly through the use of chemical fertilizers and irrigation. Both these practices are expensive and unsustainable, especially for broad acre farming and particularly in the context of a changing climate and water scarcity. 

 A renewed focus on soil health will not only improve the nutritional quality of food, it will also:
  • Increase agricultural productivity without high input costs
  • Extend the growing period and boost water holding capacity
  • Improve downstream water quality
  • Boost soil fertility
  • Enhance eco-system services such as clean water and air

Food Integrity 

HSA recognises that consumers are concerned about food quality and that certain food growing and processing practices do not preserve the optimum nutrients in food that are necessary for human health. HSA is determined to represent the interests of consumers in their quest to source nutrient rich and harmless food.

HSA is deeply concerned about what has happened to our food over the past 50 or so years. We believe in food integrity. The term food integrity implies a global perspective on food issues from soil to plate. The term goes beyond food safety in capturing aspects of food production, methods of procurement, and means of distribution. Food with integrity is produced in ways consistent with community values, principles and beliefs. Several problems exist with current food production processes. Waste and contamination from industrial farming endangers our fragile ecosystems and place the public at avoidable health risk. Consumers are paying a high cost for nutrient deficient and contaminated food products and that is reflected in our current state of health, with rapidly increasing rates of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

The mission and long term objectives of HSA is to enhance overall food integrity by facilitating awareness about the benefits of healthy, balance and biologically functioning soils. HSA is about promoting regenerative agricultural practices. HSA recognises that consumers are concerned with food quality and that certain food processing practices do not preserve the optimum nutrients in food that are necessary for human health. HSA is determined to represent the interests of consumers in their quest to source nutrient rich and harmless food.

Depending upon your area of interest, we can offer you a selection of informative links for consumers (we are all consumers) to make themselves aware of the issues at hand. If you are concerned about the quality of the food you are buying at the grocery store, some of the links will help guide to healthier more humane choices through local farms. If you are a farmer who is interested in producing food for consumers, there are links on this website that will help to show you how. Links on the research page provide scientific literature supporting the benefits of regenerative agriculture.

It is important to understand the impact we as consumer have when we spend our money. Every dollar we spend on food is a vote for that form of agricultural practice. Changing our shopping patterns by supporting regenerative agriculture will help improve our health and the health of our children, for generations to come, it will also help improve the environment and bring back our rural communities. HSA encourages consumers, home gardeners, and anyone aware enough to understand the vital role of soil in food and human health, to become involved in HSA activities and those of its affiliates.


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