where food begins

In the movie ‘Bodemboeren’ (Soil Farmers), five stubborn farmers explain the importance of a healthy soil.

One quarter of all biodiversity in the world can be found in the soil. It is full of life: bacteria, fungi, worms, mites, and of course the roots of the plants. This life makes the minerals and nutrients available for plants so that the roots can take it up.

Conventional agriculture has a negative impact on the soil in several ways:

  • Chemical fungicides, pestices and herbicides (like Monsanto’s RoundUp), kill the soil life.
  • Chemical fertilizers (N,P,K) are salts that kill the soil life.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Heavy machinery compacts the soil (obviously organic farmers sometimes use this as well). This is bad for the soil life, but also has negative impact on the hydration. With heavy rain, the water can not get into the soil, since it is too compact. On the other hand, during periods of draught, the water cannot go upwards to the roots of the plants due to the compact layers.
  •  Plowing (deep) has a negative impact on soil life, since it destroys the mycelium of the fungi, and flips the earth upside down. The result of that is that the bacteria in the upper layer (aerobe bacteria who need oxigen) are moved to deep layers with very little oxigen. Likewise, the bacteria from the lower layer (anaerobe bacteria who cannot live with oxigen) are moved to the upper layer with oxigen.


Find out more about soil:

  • FAO, 2014. World reference base for soil resources 2014. Download here
  • FAO, 2015. Status of the World’s Soil Resources. Download here
  • FAO. Boosting Africa’s Soils. Download here
  • Global Soil Partnership (FAO) website