Kai Wirtz

Soil Health Matters!

How many times as children we have been told by our mothers and grandmothers “you should eat your fruits and vegetables”? Who hasn’t heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? The World Health Organization in line with popular knowledge and our mother’s advice recommends eating 5 fruits or a minimum of 400 grs. per day. If you think of the potential positive effects to our health this small amount represents, you would make sure to have your daily ration of these simply delicious foods.

A study from the Imperial College London in 2017 reveals that a daily intake of 200 grs. of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of heart disease by 16%, the risk of a stroke by 18%, the risk of a cardiovascular disease by 13%, and the risk of cancer by 5%.

There’s plenty of evidence about the benefits to our health of eating fruits and vegetables. But how can we make sure that they are nutritious, accessible and affordable. Like everything else in life, there’s a first step. When it comes to food it all begins with the soil – the foundation of horticulture production; a healthy soil provides the environment and nutrients for plants to grow healthy and healthy plants yield healthy fruits.

You might wonder how you can know the soil is healthy? There are many indicators which can be measured such as the presence of minerals, the water content, and its organic matter in the form of beneficial and pathogenic microbes. For sure farmers took always care of their soils and farmland. But nowadays, in times of climate change, a steady increase in the intensification of farming, the growing public interest in environmental soil issues, and the shrinking available farmland per capita, they are becoming more aware of the importance of keeping the soil in good balance in order to sustain their productivity and maintain the land as a resource for future generations. To be able to achieve all these, they are implementing different techniques to keep the soil fertile; such us no-till (no- shovelling, picking, digging, stirring… the soil) or the adoption of cover-crops (legumes for instance help increase the quality of the soil).

Kai Wirtz, Global Crop Manager Fruit, Bayer
Kai Wirtz, Global Crop Manager Fruit, Bayer
Kai Wirtz,
Global Crop Manager Fruit, Bayer

The right soil composition allows the root to perform its function properly. The roots help the plant get some of its vital nourishment. They can uptake and conduct water, nutrients and minerals, they store energy and carbon hydrates, and they anchor the plant in the soil. Everything can go wrong if a root hasn’t access to enough water and doesn’t have the room to grow; or if many pathogens, nematodes and other soil insects attack it. Whenever the roots’ health and growth are compromised, the plant and its ability to bear nutritious fruits are also weakened.

Farmers know that healthy soils are the foundation for healthy food production; they understand that healthy roots are fundamental to increase yield and quality. But they are also aware that it is very difficult to detect issues below the surface early enough. Problems can develop unnoticed to the farmer even with the keenest eye. This is why at Bayer we are constantly trying to understand and learn, looking at discovering new and innocuous ways to protect the soil and plants. Ultimately, we depend on plants for our own subsistence and our own health. Every time I grab a nice red apple, or eat a crunchy carrot, I’m reminded of how far along we’ve come in our understanding of the soil and I’m inspired to keep on researching in order to help farmers reduce soil-borne problems and root-specific issues, to protect the plants and their fruits so that we all can always enjoy the beautiful colors and delicious taste of fruits and vegetables. And yes, stay healthy!

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