Soil Health Supports Human Health

INDIANAPOLIS – Participating today on a panel addressing the topic of soil health at the annual summer conference of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), Jay Vroom, the president and CEO of CropLife America (CLA), stressed the importance of soil health to the health of human beings. “The health of one of our most precious natural resource, soil for farming, directly correlates to the overall health of the human population,” stated Vroom. “Human nutrition, which is better-supplied today than ever before by U.S. farmers and ranchers, is directly reliant on healthy soils. The environmental outcomes of farming are likewise at their best when our soils are healthy.”

As more attention is paid to soil health, the direct linkage to human health is an important message to convey to the public, Vroom noted. “The vast majority of the U.S. population is so far removed from the farm that it results in frequent misconceptions about farming practices. Yet since the 1985 Farm Bill, the public has greatly benefited from consistent and effective public policy designed to advance soil conservation. Forward-thinking farm policy designed to improve soil health and ‘on the ground’ conservation practices have contributed far more to the public good than many other grand, federal-level initiatives.”

Vroom suggested that the collective voice of modern agriculture take the message of soil health advancement to the public and directly tie it to parallel improvements in human health. “We've certainly had great innovation in soil conservation during the last 30 years, and more is coming. Now, as we see greater attention paid to the entirety of the soil profile, including more specific focus on the full spectrum of soil microbes and the interaction of the organic and mineral composition of soil, we will have even more amazing stories to tell the public,” Vroom commented.

“I am especially proud of the contribution of the crop protection industry to the steady improvement in U.S. soil health. Modern herbicides have contributed immeasurably to reductions in soil erosion as conservation tillage has been widely adopted. Resulting farm productivity gains and water quality enhancement all benefit human health. Along the way, our industry has also advanced understanding of the soil biosphere by complying with the dozens of environmental regulatory requirements set out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for pesticide products. Crop protection research has directly and indirectly added to the base of knowledge about the soil profile and its living organisms. Soil dissipation studies are but one of an array of scientific work that crop protection companies have embraced and advanced,” Vroom noted.

Vroom also pointed out that soil health innovations come from all sectors, citing his recent visit to the Rodale Institute. “Rodale has some interesting progress in organic no-till systems relying on impressive cover crops. We can all learn from each other,” he suggested.

Many key organizations, such as NACD, are leading advancements in soil health research and farming practice adaptation. In addition, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Farm Foundation have recently launched a new soil health program. “CropLife America looks forward to partnering with these colleague organizations on a variety of soil health fronts to communicate to a curious public about the major advancements in both the science and ‘on the ground’ farming practices,” Vroom concluded.

Michael Leary