Understanding Soil Biology Critical for Farming Systems

Brian German Industry

The agricultural industry has made significant strides in recognizing the importance of soil biology and maximizing the value of the microbial ecosystem within the soil in recent years. A panel of industry experts highlighted some of the disruptive practices making an impact on agricultural production at the recent Organic Grower Summit in Monterey, where soil health and biology was a significant point of discussion.

“I think farmers for the last couple of decades, have really started to understand that the soil is alive and in every tablespoon of soil there are millions of microbes that live in that ecosystem,” said Diane Wu, Co-Founder and CTO of Trace Genomics. “Some of our most advanced farmers and agronomists know, farming that crop is as much about farming the soil as it is about farming the crop and so you have to farm the whole ecosystem.”

Encompassing soil considerations into a farming approach can provide multiple levels of benefit.  Understanding the needs of the soil ecosystem can reduce the amount of wasted input growers are applying to fields and increase the efficiency of the inputs that are applied. Wu described somewhat of an overall plateau as to what types of benefits various soil amendment products can provide for growers, emphasizing even more of a need to optimize soil biology through a better understanding of soil systems.

“To really be able to make the best decisions on the field you have to kind of also focus on the soil and the living ecosystem without just killing everything and expecting that crop to keep growing. So, how do you preserve the health of that soil while getting a profit and a yield benefit,” Wu noted.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re an organic farmer or a conventional farmer; farmers want to preserve the ability to grow food on their farm for generations to come, it’s their greatest asset.”

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Brian German

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Multimedia Journalist for AgNet West